Editorial: A full time Title IX Coordinator is needed at the University of Portland

By The Beacon | November 16, 2016 9:38pm
by Clare Duffy / The Beacon

University President Fr. Mark Poorman recently announced the formation of a committee to review University of Portland’s Title IX procedures, policies and practices. The committee is made up of faculty, staff and students. Elise Moentmann, Associate Dean of CAS and history professor, will serve as chair of the committee.

Poorman’s goals for this committee include the review of all aspects of Title IX on The Bluff, as well as instruction to “conduct a comparative analysis across similar institutions of higher education,” by the end of March 2017. One notable aspect that the University of Portland is lacking in terms of Title IX is a single person whose sole responsibility is to uphold the standards of equality presented by Title IX.

The Beacon editorial board enthusiastically commends Poorman on taking this initiative and prioritizing high Title IX standards within the community. We would like to take this opportunity to recommend the hire of a trained professional who will serve as a Title IX coordination and whose sole responsibility is upholding the standards of respect and equality that are presented by Title IX.

In the past few years, the University has had multiple faculty members step in and out of the role, none of whom have been solely the Title IX coordinator. All have simultaneously held other titles at UP, and overseeing Title IX reports and activity has simply been added to their lists of responsibilities, including full time teaching.

The appointment of the Ad Hoc University Committee is most definitely a step in the right direction, but in order to show all Pilots that they are respected and safe on this campus, there is a clear need to hire a fulltime Title IX Coordinator.

The request for a non-academic faculty member to be appointed for this role is not unheard of. In fact, most comparable institutions have appointed a person whose only title is Title IX Coordinator. Within the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University and University of San Diego are all on this list, as well as UP’s cross town rival Portland State University.

Sophomore social work major Shannon Scruggs finds it problematic that we do not have a full time Title IX coordinator. She feels strongly that “a full time Title IX Coordinator would be able to give more attention to violations and reports,” and better handle any related problems that occur.

From a student perspective, the idea of reporting a Title IX violation to someone who may be a professor or academic figure, is less than desirable. Especially with the stigma that already surrounds reporting.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be sexually assaulted while they are in college. While it is tempting to believe that UP is above this statistic, it is very unlikely that the three sexual assaults that have been reported by the University’s Annual Public Safety Fire and Crime Report in each of the past three years is accurately reflecting the true number of students who are suffering as victims of sexual assault each year.

It is possible that this is in part due to the lack of a sole Title IX coordinator. Students who have fallen victim to a Title IX violation of any sort may experience fear or shame around reporting, and be less likely to report if the person they would need to contact is immediately associated with academics or student life on campus in any other capacity.

A campus Title IX Coordinator should be able to give this their full attention. Passing this job around, as UP has in the past, implies that it has not been taken seriously.

When a distressed victim steps forward to report a Title IX violation they should be able to feel confident that a full time campus Title IX coordinator will be able to give it their full attention, walk them through the whole process, and provide support as needed throughout their time at the University.

Creating a full time Title IX coordinator position would mean devoting funds to that person's salary but the safety and respect for each pilot should be prioritized, regardless of cost. There is an immediate need for the creation of this role.

The Beacon commends the University of Portland for taking the steps to appoint this committee and it is now imperative that this committee take action suggesting the hire of a qualified individual to oversee the entirety of University affairs related to Title IX.