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Title IX: The do-nothing office

Title IX is hurting Hofstra. When I say this, I do not mean the single-sentence, law-preventing gender discrimination, I mean the office in place that claims responsibility for overseeing reports of dating violence, rape and sexual assault, among other things. They have done so little as an office in recent years that there is dramatic underreporting and a veil of email redirections in place rather than any form of accountability for themselves or for the good number of attackers on campus, validating the student body’s majority opinion that Title IX does nothing.

My interaction with the do-nothing office began last summer when applying for their work-study position. When asked what my biggest issue would be working there, I responded with “being the stereotype image of campus sexual assault” (18-year-old white male). The Title IX officer for undergraduates began to lecture me on how that is an image issue. The Title IX officer continued with their script responses no matter how I agreed with their statement or preemptively acknowledged their argument.

I was sexually assaulted on my second night at Hofstra. Already having had one bad interaction with Title IX, it took me some time to report to someone non-confidential. By the time I got myself together enough to report to Title IX, Public Safety and Nassau County Police, my attacker had admitted in a group-chat of 23 students to sexually assaulting me. From here, everything went wrong again.

My attacker knows they hurt me and will never say they didn’t sexually assault me, but even with a written statement admitting to sexual assault, Hofstra found my attacker not responsible. I appealed with pages on pages demonstrating misadministration of policy. After months of waiting, I received a single page response telling me I was simply incorrect while providing no reasoning or evidence to support this claim.

I appealed again, arguing that Hofstra had failed to defend their response and again arguing misadministration of policy. A vice president of the University responded, telling me that my attacker was still not responsible, ignoring my claim that it was how the decision was made that was wrong and not simply the decision (which, for the record, is also wrong). He also reinterpreted a section of Hofstra policy, one that alluded to New York State Education Law Article 129-B but failed to cite it, making Hofstra’s policy less robust and protective of students. This implies that Hofstra has no sense of responsibility to their own policy or the safety of their students, preferring to default to the legal bare minimum whenever convenient.

I have never been allowed to speak to anyone who directly made the decisions in my case. I was at one point directed to the dean of students who told me that she hopes Nassau County holds my attacker responsible because the school has failed.

I was also directed back to the do-nothing office of Title IX who took a few notes from my story down on a post-it note which, given its impermanence, I can only assume has been thrown away.

It should also be noted that at one point Title IX accused me of retaliation and would not drop their false claim, even when I had the support of lawyers specializing in the subject, forcing me to go through a full university conduct process where I was found not responsible.

Amidst all of this, I found a little whisper network at Hofstra. Just about every victim of sexual assault or dating violence on campus seems to know somebody else who has either been through the useless Title IX process or has chosen not to report, seeing it as a waste of time. If this seems far-fetched, take into consideration that one in five women will be raped in college.  

There has already been a failed attempt at institutionalized and systematic reform to the Title IX office: the Title IX Student Advisory Board. This board is comprised of students who have personally felt the pain of do-nothings on Hofstra’s payroll that were supposed to help them find security and hold their attackers responsible.

These same students who have already been basically ignored when reporting are regularly ignored by the Title IX office later – even with their “advisory” title.

Title IX clearly fails to handle reports of dating violence and will even go so far as to accuse victims of retaliation, but their office also does some training as well. Their trainings for students are sub-par. Their approach to gender discrimination is to not be the problem rather than combat the problem. Their online sessions sent to students every year almost always show cisgender, heterosexual men abusing their partner and when they manage to break away from that cliche they play off of LGBTQ+ stereotypes rather than attempting to show any form of nuance. Basically, Title IX fails again here.

The National Women’s Health Network has said it plainly: “Colleges’ failure to punish rapists to the fullest extent of the law sends a powerful message about what’s considered acceptable, or forgivable, behavior.”  

Will Title IX respond to this call to action on their own? No. What is there to do in the meantime? Keep organizing. The work of Student Advocates for Safer Sex, Take Back The Night campaign organizers and every other group of students at Hofstra that prefers a rapist-free student body is absolutely invaluable given the systemic, institutional failure we face. When students are under attack, we stand up and fight back.

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