Westminster Spotlight: Title IX
Westminster steps to the forefront regarding Title IX and addressing sexual violence on campus
by Arikka Von (MSC ’15)
Sexual assault can be an uncomfortable and difficult topic to talk about. Westminster is trying to make the conversation easier, even as the national spotlight shines on the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses across America. “It is for the safety and well-being of our students. We want people to feel safe—that’s the whole point of the law is that people feel safe to pursue an education,” said Melissa Flores, Westminster’s General Counsel.
That law is Title IX. It’s a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex against any person in education programs that receive federal funding. When Melissa Flores took the job as Westminster’s General Counsel in late 2013, she joined the college’s Title IX committee just as they were revising the college’s Title IX policy to comply with new federal guidelines. Trisha Teig, Westminster assistant dean of students and Title IX coordinator, said the committee drew upon the White House’s resources at www.NotAlone.gov to develop new Title IX initiatives on campus.
Teig and Flores rolled out an extensive Title IX campaign in the fall, working to educate the campus community that Title IX covers many things, including access to technology, athletics, and employment. Title IX also covers harassment and sexual assault. A Justice Department survey reports that one in five women in the United States will experience sexual violence while in college. It’s most often by someone she knows—and most assaults are not reported. When assaults were reported, The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault found many universities weren’t meeting legal obligations under Title IX to protect students and help victims. Because of new federal requirements and Westminster’s focus on students, Title IX at the college looks very different.
Every student, every staff member, and every full-time and adjunct faculty member participated in Title IX trainings geared specifically to them. The herculean task took months of coordination. New employees and incoming freshman will all be required to take Title IX training.
“Westminster’s student-centered culture has made this a pretty smooth process because it’s not just about complying with the law,” said Teig. “Faculty care, staff care, we all care about each student. The students know that too, so while we are doing everything to the letter of the law, it means much more to Westminster than just meeting federal requirements.”
The college is working with the Salt Lake City Police Department and Rape Recovery Center in order to share information and resources. In the future, the college will conduct campus-climate surveys and continue Title IX trainings for anyone who is interested.
Westminster is also trying to make the difficult conversation about sexual assault easier for the entire state. In late September 2014, Westminster hosted a symposium entitled “Not Alone: Confronting Sexual Violence on College Campuses.” Students, professors, and administrators from universities all over Utah gathered at Westminster for two days of frank and open dialogue about sexual assaults on college campuses. Westminster President Brian Levin-Stankevich welcomed representatives from Utah State University, Weber State University, University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Snow College, Dixie State University, and Southern Utah University. Local law enforcement and community advocates also attended.
“We were honored to play a role in bringing together the expertise and experience to help us all provide an environment where our students can be safe and focus on their learning,” said Levin-Stankevich. “At Westminster, students are at the center of everything we do. The symposium was a great example of the core values of our institution.”
Flores said that even after the symposium and all the campus trainings, the sexual-assault conversation at Westminster is open and will not close because it is too important.
“I want people to know they have a resource here. So if something doesn’t feel right, or they aren’t sure, people can come by my office, call me, ask me ‘how does this work,’” said Flores. “It’s only when we start having these conversations that we’re able to help students and reduce the number of assaults.”
Title IX Changes at Westminster
- New Title IX policy
- New Title IX webpage: www.westminsteru.edu/titleix
- New assault reporting methods: anonymous form on the college website
- New Title IX officers (responsible for assault investigations)
- Improved assault-investigation procedures
- Required training for all students, staff, and faculty
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.