Editorial: It's not policy yet

By The Beacon | February 7, 2018 8:22pm

The Title IX office will host a Q&A and listening session on Nov. 14. 

Title IX is being fundamentally evaluated at the University of Portland, and it’s a step in the right direction. University President Fr. Mark Poorman sent out an email on Monday, Jan. 29 with a 37-page report filled with recommendations from a Title IX committee he appointed in November 2016. 

Some of the tangible changes resulting from the recommendations include the creation of a full-time Title IX education and outreach position and a new policy that requires the permanent team dismissal of any student athlete found to be in violation of the interpersonal violence policy.

It’s a step. A sign that the administration is paying attention to a campus-wide call for change in how our university deals with sexual assault. But we can’t think the fight is over. 

The Beacon applauds Poorman for releasing the memo and beginning to move forward with plans to make our campus safer. Even though the committee took over a year to release its recommendations, we believe it was well worth the wait. And we recommend that every student take the time to sift through the long and comprehensive document. It may seem dense, but the suggestions are smart and thorough. They would improve the way our campus treats Title IX and likely the willingness of some students to come forward with allegations. 

But they are just suggestions. We can’t forget that. 

Poorman says that about five of them, including the Title IX position, will be implemented this school year, and this is not an unusual pace. Policy takes time. Effective change, more often than not, is incremental. 

However, we’re sure at least one person read the Beacon article that came out last week about the report and believed the University is in the process of reviewing the words “consent,” “intoxication” and “incapacitation.” It is not. At least not yet. 

Recommendations are not policy, and it’s important we make the distinction. The report is in the President’s Leadership Cabinet’s hands now. They could toss out a majority of the ideas the committee had, including separating the Title IX process from Residence Life and the Student Conduct Office, or defining “consent,” two things that were brought up during a sexual assault case last year

Most important to remember, Title IX is often not the primary process that students go through when reporting a sexual assault. More often than not, students go through the student conduct processa separate entity from Title IX.  

The University is making progress, and it’s worth celebrating. But never stop demanding more from your administration, because we have a long way to go. Students, inform yourselves about Title IX and the student conduct process. Read that long document and join us in holding our leadership accountable. 

Students are the backbone of this university. We can’t underestimate our power to pull administrators out from their brick fortress and demand that they treat us fairly and keep us safe. 

Let’s turn these recommendations into policy. It starts here. 

Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Write us.