SU receives second Title IX complaint as Office For Civil Rights discuss school's policies with community

During an open community discussion surrounding sexual assault on campus, SU administrators discovered a second Title IX complaint at the university.

Syracuse University discovered a second Title IX complaint Wednesday, while attorneys from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights met with students and faculty members on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the current policies on handling sexual assault.

In the complaint, a graduate student alleges that she has been subject to a hostile work environment in her academic department, according to an email from Title IX officer Sheila Johnson-Willis. In 2015, a former SU student filed a complaint with the Department of Education, alleging that the school failed to properly respond to a report of sexual assault, according to The Daily Orange.

SU received another complaint last year, one of nearly 300 Title IX complaints that the OCR is investigating throughout the country. Meanwhile, about 30 people -- mostly faculty members -- attended Wednesday’s meeting with OCR attorneys Joy Purcell, Sandeep Randhawa and Grace Kim, where they voiced their opinions about what was and what was not working with how SU handled sexual assault cases. Several audience members said that if SU wants to encourage more students to seek the help they need, the reporting process must not further traumatize the victims.

“Students who have been traumatized,” said Pamela Peter, director of SU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. “They hold a lot of that on themselves.”

Attendees discussed the preventative policies that are already in place, such as Think About It, an multimedia online course that incoming students must complete in the summer. They also talked about the differences between what training that new faculty members have to go through versus what is required of more tenured faculty.

Another concern that was brought up was the efficiency of SU’s safety escort service. Callers are immediately asked if they are in a safe area, and those who reply “yes” may be asked to wait up to 45 minutes for an escort. On understaffed nights, the students serving as escorts may find themselves walking alone.

Throughout the meeting, people shared research and personal experiences on what can be down to improve the university’s policies. Dr. Susan Pasco, the Counseling Center’s associate director, said the American College Health Association is considering more effective ways to teach preventative practices without victim blaming.

“We’re really looking into how we can infiltrate messages that will help us reduce risks,” she said.

Rebecca Ortiz, an assistant advertising professor, said while she was working at Texas Tech University, she found that when students feel engaged in the conversations around sexual assault, the conversations are more productive.

“There are some students who are very active in sexual assault prevention and some who feel very overwhelmed,” she said. “We should try to start the conversation in an easier tone instead of jumping right into the educational tone. [Those conversations] should be interesting and entertaining, not just something students need to get through.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.