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Title IX Meets Radical Hospitality

Say “Title IX” and for many people, it’s the increase in the number of women’s collegiate sports teams that jumps to mind. But the federal civil rights law means much more than that. It’s about gender equality across the entire college campus – both on the field and in the classroom. 

In 2011, the government expanded the scope and intensity of Title IX, making colleges more accountable when it comes to addressing and reporting student-on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence. In addition, college employees are required to go through mandated education courses. It’s a challenge St. Norbert College is ready to meet.

“Title IX covers a wide swath from sexual harassment and disparaging treatment to assault,” says Amanda Kim (President’s Office). “For St. Norbert College, however, we view this greater awareness of gender inequity as an extension of our radical hospitality initiative and our campus being a welcoming – and safe – place for all students and employees.”

Gabby Zewdu-Habte ’15 says the awareness is much appreciated. “Gender discrimination is still an issue that needs to be dealt with, but it’s difficult for people to talk about it, so anything we do to get the conversation going is good,” she says.

To comply with the new guidelines, every St. Norbert staff member and student took an online course this semester to raise awareness about harassment and assault, and about what to do if they experience it themselves or witness it. Incoming first-years and all new students also attended an in-person class as part of their orientation process. “It’s really about making sure every single employee and student knows that help is available and where to get it,” Kim says. “This is also about respecting those who have been traumatized or hurt and holding each other accountable to always treat others fairly. That also gets back to our key Norbertine values of human dignity and respect.”

Alex Clemetson ’15, the president of the Student Government Association, says the training is an effective way to make sure everyone has the same information. “There’s a base there for discussion and the training is a great way for everyone to take part,” he says. “I definitely came away with more understanding.”

Time to act
Title IX, enacted in 1972, proihibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any federally funded education program or activity. In April of 2011, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights published a letter that defined much higher expectations. It made clear that the requirements of Title IX cover sexual violence, defined as physical sexual acts, perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent. 

As part of its efforts to raise awareness and connect staff and students with the resources they need, St. Norbert College has launched a Title IX website that serves as a one-stop guide. The site not only contains information about Title IX and links on filing a complaint, it also provides multiple resources to the people reporting a possible complaint.

Nov. 13, 2014