Section: News

Title IX update released

by Eileen Cartter

Last Wednesday, Interim Title IX Coordinator Linda Smolak emailed Kenyon students and employees a mid-year update of sexual misconduct report statistics from the fall 2014 semester. This past fall, Smolak wrote, “33 reports of sexual misconduct came into Kenyon’s Title IX office.” Smolak also provided information regarding the College’s implementation of Title IX this year, including options and resources available to students.

Smolak’s email follows a campus-wide push toward greater knowledge and discussion of Title IX since the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, as well as some confusion regarding whether the College complied with Clery Act reporting mandates this past October. Those 33 reports, Smolak wrote, “covered all sorts of incidents, from graffiti … to non-consensual sexual intercourse,” transcending various types of crime — specifically, criminal offenses, hate crimes and arrests or referrals for disciplinary action — the Clery Act requires colleges participating in federal financial aid programs to report each year by Oct. 1.

Smolak said that, as far as she is aware, this is the first time the College has sent out numbers like these mid-year, previously only doing so by the Clery Act deadline and at the end of the academic year. “People keep telling me it’s the first time they’ve ever seen this,” she said, “[and they’re] glad to know what’s going on.”

Though 33 reports may seem high, Smolak said the increase reflects an increased willingness to come forward to report incidents, and that it mirrors the national trend. “Nationally, the Clery [Act] numbers have been going up for the last three years,” Smolak said, “because people are more aware. … With the [increased] training, I think people started thinking, ‘Oh yeah, there’s something we can do here.’”

Nikki Keller, College counselor and staff leader of the Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMA) program, also cited a rise in Title IX awareness in regard to the numbers in Smolak’s email. “[The statistics] are really consistent with the kind of reports we get,” Keller said. “I know the number seems high, [but] I don’t think it’s … realistically different than many other years; it’s just that more of them are now getting to the Title IX coordinator.” She added that people seem to be “more comfortable actually reporting things,” and that, this year, “75-plus percent [of sexual misconduct reports] have gotten to the Title IX coordinator.”

The mid-year report may not necessarily reflect a spike in sexual misconduct on campus. “Has it changed that much? Probably not,” Keller said. “Realistically, … I think it’s the same influx most years, which is unfortunate.” Rather, the Title IX initiative and its coordinators, she said, have worked to inform students of their options and support them through the subsequent processes. “I don’t think they necessarily push or encourage people to do one thing or another,” Keller said. “More have gone through, though, the judicial process than ever before — it’s kind of unprecedented territory, and I don’t know what that necessarily reflects.”

A sophomore student who has reported sexual misconduct appreciated the email’s intention but wished “the College [had] made a gesture that said we are aware of how many people go through this.” She also expressed concern than an email may not reach as much of the Kenyon community as a “more public or palpable” medium could.

Keller, too, acknowledged that the update was a step in the right direction as far as transparency, but thinks the College could go further to reassure students dealing with sexual misconduct by breaking down the reports from a raw number into categories such as stalking and sexual harassment. With a more contextualized report, Keller said, “people can go like, ‘Oh, OK, that makes me feel a little bit better, or that makes me feel a bit worse.’”

Additionally, releasing a mid-year report “is not something that’s going to be like, ‘Here’s some numbers, here’s some stats, now everybody go away,’” Keller said. “This is here to stay. The target is to have everybody informed, have everybody know their rights and responsibilities, have everybody know their resources and … what they can do to help feel comfortable.”

Smolak said she would consider sending out another update this semester, but her time in the coordinator position is coming to a close. The first candidate for a full-time Title IX coordinator position will be on campus today.


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