UT must actively educate students about Title IX

Emma Berdanier

Baylor’s Title IX Coordinator resigned last week, in yet another event stemming from the sexual assault scandal that has clung to the school since it surfaced last August. In an interview following her resignation, she made allegations that higher-ups in the University prevented her from doing her job and intervened in cases. These allegations are in direct violation of what Title IX should be —  protections provided to students by the Department of Education for cases of sexual assault and other sexual and gender-based injustices. While these allegations were made at Baylor, they highlight the systematic failings that have allowed sexual assault to continue on college campuses in our country.

In the wake of the Baylor scandal (that won’t be ending anytime soon, if the lawsuits they’re facing pull through), UT needs to reaffirm their position and be more transparent with students as to how they handle sexual assault cases within their Title IX office. Though we’ve yet to face a sexual assault scandal of the gravity of that at Baylor, sexual assault is still a major issue on our campus. According to 2015 surveys, 19 percent of undergraduate women reported being sexually assaulted at UT that year. While this is lower than the national average, it’s still not low enough.

Latoya Smith, UT’s Title IX Coordinator, hopes to make Title IX’s resources more accessible to students. She wrote in an email, “Overall my philosophy of making the information more accessible to students is to work with students in each function of the Title Office from social media, videos, promotional materials, policy development and programming.”

Currently, any student can walk into the Dean of Students’ office to file a report and begin an investigation with Title IX without having to be referred by a third party. However this information is not made clear enough to students. Many incoming students don’t know what Title IX does until they’re forced to use it, a learning curve that shouldn’t exist.

To combat this curve, UT must educate students about Title IX and campus resources from the onset, beginning at summer orientations and continuing into first-year signature courses, which serve to inform freshmen of campus resources. Learning where libraries are and how to use them should be coupled with learning how to utilize Title IX and what filing a report with Title IX entails. Smith’s desire to educate students about her office through student leadership groups is a good one, but it should be coupled by a university-led initiative to introduce freshman to Title IX when they arrive on campus.

UT is not Baylor, thankfully, but that doesn’t mean we are immune to sexual assault or that a scandal of that nature couldn’t occur here. The University must be proactive to ensure sexual assault cases are handled properly. To do this UT needs to actively educate its students about the resources available to them and keep Title IX transparent with students, both to prevent a scandal like Baylor’s and to aid in decreasing the number of sexual assaults on our campus.

Berdanier is philosophy junior from Boulder, Colorado. Follow her on twitter @eberdanier