Section: News

Online petition calls for Title IX changes

Earlier this month, a student anonymously posted a Change.org petition accusing the College of “injustices” in how its Office of Civil Rights adjudicated a Title IX complaint the student filed at the beginning of this academic year.

During the student’s sophomore year, they filed a formal complaint against an individual who “repeatedly abused [them] emotionally, physically, and sexually,” acording to the petition. Though they hoped the Title IX Office would “remedy these issues and keep [them] safe,” they ended up being “gravely disappointed,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous because of the confidential nature of Title IX-related cases, said in an interview with the Collegian.

The petition, titled “A Call For Change Regarding Kenyon College’s Inequitable Title IX Policy & Proceedings,” has received 45 signatures as of Wednesday.

The student’s criticisms are threefold: First, the person does not believe accusers at Kenyon are adequately protected from the accused during investigations, leaving victims susceptible to harassment and stalking. Secondly, they — who asked that the Collegian not identify their gender — took issue with the office encouraging them to participate in an informal resolution, as informal resolutions are explicitly disallowed by Title IX, a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex. Finally, the student believes the office should expand its policy on appeals.

Under Title IX, a federal law pertaining to allegations of sexual assault, informal methods of resolution such as mediation are “not appropriate,” according to a document released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Know Your Rights.”

The Office of Civil Rights did not follow this policy during the student’s investigation, according to the student.

“Despite allegations of sexual assault, I was often encouraged to participate in an informal resolution,” the student said. “I almost acquiesced at points, until a sexual misconduct advisor pointed out during a meeting with Title IX that they were not allowed to suggest informal mediation, given the possible charges.”

“What I want to come out of this petition, first and foremost, is clarification and change of policy and procedures, including broadening the basis for appeals,” the student said. “I recognize that my own case is closed, likely permanently, but I want there to be a change so that future complainants don’t have to go through what I endured, and get better results.”

Andrea Goldblum, Civil Rights/Title IX coordinator, wrote in an email to the Collegian that Kenyon’s Title IX procedures already “comply with or exceed federal law and guidance.” She added that the office is willing to listen to students’ criticism.

When the Collegian asked about the petition specifically, she said the College is “open to dialogue” and is planning a community forum later this semester, the details of which have not been finalized.

To protect their anonymity, the student has asked that their friends to circulate the petition on their behalf, and they plan to send the petition to the administration after it accrues more signatures. They chose Change.org as the platform to convey their message because they believe “it is generally regarded with legitimacy and offers a quick and informed way for people to gather together in support of a cause,” the student said.

“I support the petition because it’s time to change the culture surrounding sexual violence that exists at Kenyon,” petition signee Jacob Hopkins ’18 said. “When a student is denied the highest standards of protection when going through a case, that student suffers, and so does their contribution to the Kenyon community. Whenever the College fails to put in place protections, or fails to enforce them when they do, I lose something even if I do not know the student or their case.”

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