Title IX in 2021: Decoding F&M’s Code of Conduct

By Erin Maxwell || News Editor

Editor’s Note: This article is “Part 1” of a two-part look into national Title IX legislation, and how F&M is working to educate, prevent, and protect against sexual misconduct on campus.

Image courtesy of The Atlantic.

In her farewell to Congress, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos highlighted the changes to Title IX policy as her greatest accomplishment under the Trump administration and urged policymakers to preserve the highly specific framework. Civil rights groups, including the prominent non-governmental organization “Know Your IX” don’t share her pride. DeVos’ emphasis on due process and the presumption of innocence for the accused, they claim, reversed progressive movement towards hard-won trauma-informed victim protection and restorative justice. The inclusion of a mandated cross-examination process drew national outrage, as did the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity minorities from coverage under the protections. While the latter has been reversed by a Biden executive order earlier this year, cross-examinations still remain on the books, as do an abundance of damaging and narrowing regulations.

Kate Snider, the Title IX Coordinator at F&M and the sole employee in the Title IX office, explained the changes in an interview last week. “In previous years, Title IX had been all-encompassing,” she said. “Any behavior that was considered sexual misconduct fell under Title IX. Suddenly, Betsy DeVos released these new regulations that required us to define things in very prescribed ways, and now we are only able to include a thin slice of sexual misconduct under the purview of our office.” The misconduct that is currently included in the Title IX framework includes dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and a very small portion of power dynamic-related misconduct. But, even this is complicated by the specified definitions; for example, any misconduct that occurs off-campus is legally not able to go through Title IX processes, nor is any sexual harassment that is not “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a personal equal educational access.” This narrowed access has effectively hamstrung Snider’s office, as any reported misconduct that doesn’t fall under Title IX definitions cannot be formally pursued through that route, but rather through the Office of Student Affairs and their Student Conduct process.

A student at Purdue University shows protests the lack of definitive action after a rape was reported at the ZBT fraternity house. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Martinus, staff photographer for The Purdue Exponent.

It’s no secret that the process seems secretive; over 2,000 pages of legal jargon and 

deeply-buried Student Conduct codes are difficult to digest. So, how does the reporting process and the justice system work at F&M? The answer is frustrating: it depends. When a student makes a report, whether it be to PSAFE, to a House Dean, to a mandated reporter, or even to the Title IX office directly, it always goes to Title IX first. After receiving the report, Snider then reads through legal regulations to see if the case falls under her jurisdiction, or if the student will have to go through the Office of Student Affairs instead. If the case meets DeVos’ narrow requirements, the student has the choice to file a formal complaint—this filing will begin the formal Title IX process, one that works as a spectrum rather than a one-size-fits-all. In other words, students can choose how far to proceed with a case, and always have the option to end at a lower restorative level or even leave the process completely. Regardless of their decision, Snider has a message for students: no matter what a student decides to do, no matter if they file a formal complaint or not, and no matter if the case actually falls within the Title IX purview, Snider’s office can provide every supportive measure. These measures include, but are not limited to, no-contact orders, extra counseling, mental health leave, class schedule conflict assistance, and extended leave. 

If Snider can’t pursue the case through the Title IX process, she is legally required to “dismiss” it. At that point, it gets sent to Colette Shaw, Dean of Student Affairs, and her Office of Student Affairs. Due to the narrow definitions, Shaw says, she gets most reports these days. But, instead of being overwhelmed, she believes her process is better for victims and the pursuit of the “holistic” process. “Students now have a lot more choices,” Shaw said, showing a picture of a rainbow-colored spectrum with suggested measures, printed on the cover of a book detailing pathways of restorative justice for college administrators. “You can always back out and have things move along the spectrum; restorative practice takes the focus off what the rules are, and focuses on harm instead. Cases have to be resolved, but I don’t have as prescribed of a process.”

This lack of process, however, makes the system more opaque, suggests Kate Snider, who is concerned about the lack of formal support she is able to provide, especially in the context of her team-of-one. However, in the past two years, the arsenal of resources F&M has to offer has greatly expanded. Kathryn Wanner, the Director of Student Wellness Education and Violence, hopes that students will take advantage of opportunities, but believes that further prevention and education measures must be implemented into the existing college framework to be effective. Making prevention training, consent education, and bystander intervention a required part of being a member of F&M’s campus can look like many things, she says. Including training or seminars in student organizations, athletic teams, Greek life, and freshman orientation can reach students during transition times, and familiarize the campus with reporting processes and support resources. “The problems aren’t unique to F&M,” she said, pointing to nationwide statistics and systemic rape culture. “But colleges should be responsible for the health and safety of their students—and my office is where you should start with prevention.” 

Utilizing campus resources may be more important than ever, as F&M experiences heightened numbers of mental health-related reports and leaves of absence. Snider and Wanner agree that the pandemic’s aftereffects have not only worsened personal mental health but put students at a higher risk of violence, especially dating and domestic violence. “Everybody is struggling to figure out how to process the pandemic, and what this means for our mental health looks different for everyone,” Wanner said. “Pandemic stress exacerbates underlying stress, and we shouldn’t overlook the traumas we’ve been through.” 

To learn more about the Title IX process, the student conduct process, and the supportive resources on campus and nationwide, please visit the following:

YWCA Resources:

For additional information or scheduling call (717) 869-5009 or email wehearyou@ywcalancaster.org. Counseling and therapy are offered at no cost. Medical and legal advocacy resources are available at: https://ywcalancaster.org/programs/sexual-assault-prevention-and-counseling-center/services-for-victim-survivors/ 

Title IX Office Resources: https://www.fandm.edu/campus-life/title-ix

Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form: https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?FranklinMarshall&layout_id=3

2021-2022 Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15u2MLpxyqpxfYVwEajEyu9I4WXHgbLMI/view 

Franklin and Marshall Student Code of Conduct: https://sites.google.com/fandm.edu/student-handbook/code-of-conduct?authuser=0

Questions and Answers on the Title IX Regulations on Sexual Harassment (July 2021): https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/202107-qa-titleix.pdf 

Student Wellness Center Counseling Services: https://www.fandm.edu/campus-life/services-policies/student-wellness-center/counseling

F&M YWCA Partnership: https://www.fandm.edu/campus-life/student-wellness-education-and-violence-prevention/peer-health-educators/ywca-partnership

Student Survivor Support Group:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lG8WVAGudjzS-Ix1Stqn0SjrniiKm4cg/view

Sexual Assault Hotline: (717) 392-7273

Know Your IX: Empowering Students to Stop Sexual Violence: https://www.knowyourix.org/

A national nongovernmental organization aimed to educate and empower college students and advocate for progressive change.

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