Editorial: This is the time for Title IX to improve

At issue: Changes in the Title IX department

Our take: This is an opportunity for improvement

Emerson announced in an email over winter break that they were in the market for a new Title IX Investigator. Pamela Ring, who was hired in 2015, left the college on Jan. 5 “to pursue private practice.” This opening gives the college a chance to improve its handling of sexual assault and harassment.

When we sat down to write this article, we realized we didn’t have answers to basic questions concerning Title IX. For example: How do you file a Title IX report? What happens after that? And where exactly is the Title IX office? Admittedly, a quick Google search did lead us to Emerson’s Title IX website, but it still felt like answers were out of our grasp. Information on filing a report and the process is long and overwhelming. One subsection consists of points labeled with letters “a” through “o”. Considering the context for when a person needs to file a report, this process should be clear and simple. And everyone should know where the office is located. It’s in the Transportation Building, by the way.

While an investigator must remain objective, their goal should be to understand the survivor’s account, not protect the college’s image. Attaining factual evidence of the incident is important to the case, but the continuous, often condescending question of “Well, did you drink?” insinuates that the assault was their fault. There needs to be an understanding that alcohol and drug consumption do not by any means justify what happened to the survivor. Sexual assault isn’t localized to Emerson, but rather a pervasive, widespread issue that needs to be tackled at large.

With a new investigator comes a chance to create a more accessible Title IX office. As it exists now, the Title IX office is an enigma that exists outside of the student body, not with us. This could change with better communication with the student body: RAs can hold floor meetings to go over the process of reporting a sexual assault, we have message boards all over campus to post flyers, and new students can be educated during orientation, or even through an online program like AlcoholEdu. We are often told that if something happens, we should report itーbut we can’t do that if we don’t have the knowledge on how to report something. The Title IX office needs to become as accessible and open as the library or Center for Health and Wellness.

We are asking whoever holds this important position next—please put survivors first. Don’t ask intrusive questions about alcohol and drugs. Make information about reporting incidents accessible to those who may desperately need it. Be approachable. Give meaning to the word transparency. Answer phone calls from reporters trying to get the facts straight. Don’t slam the door in their face when they then come to your office for answers—after all, journalism students can be victims too.

Perhaps the next time we feel compelled to write an editorial about the Title IX Office, it will be to praise a step in the right direction.