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University's Title IX policy updated to provide transparency

The Title IX Office at Hofstra University has updated their  “Student Policy Prohibiting Discriminatory Harassment, Relationship Violence, and Sexual Misconduct” for the 2018-19 school year.

While the updates are now in the new “Guide to Pride,” an email sent to students on Wednesday, Nov. 7 summarized the three major changes.

The policy now makes it clear that when a complaint is made against an employee, “Students have the opportunity to discuss their rights under the Harassment Policy and available resources.” The language of the appeal process has also been clarified to promote better comprehension.

In addition, the time frame for making an initial complaint of a policy violation has been extended to 12 months from the most recent occurrence of the violation. Prior to this update, the time frame was six months.

Allison Vernace, the Title IX officer for student issues, said, “The changes that we had made were basically out of clarity and also student feedback of things that students had mentioned to myself and others on campus.”

Carissa Ramirez, a senior double major in political science and public policy and public service, spearheaded the movement to increase the time frame.

“After I reported my assault to Public Safety, I was so dissatisfied with my reporting experience that I wanted to commit the rest of my time here to trying to improve the reporting experience for others in the future,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez researched approximately 30 other universities to explore their policies in regard to Title IX. She “found that a majority of these schools had no reporting limits at all ... I also found that a majority of schools had an alternative way of reporting besides going in person – online reporting was the most common.”   

Ramirez sent Vernace a 40-page proposal summarizing the research over the summer. While the proposed extended limit was put in place, Ramirez is not done advocating for change. She wants to create an online method for reporting violations of Title IX. In addition, Ramirez wants to increase awareness of the policy updates. “Hofstra’s advertising of [the policy] has been less than optimal and has not made the increase in reporting time well known to a majority [of] students.”

Although Matt McLoughlin, a sophomore majoring in engineering science, did not know of the policy changes for Title IX, he did support the changes. “I think that it’s a good time to give kids enough room for what is supposed to happen in those situations, because they can get real difficult.”

A recent article in The Chronicle about an amendment to the defamation policies in the “Guide to Pride” noted the lack of student knowledge of that change as well.

Emma Kern, a senior history and anthropology major, echoed Ramirez. According to Kern, “Unless you really want to be a part of It’s On Us or Sexual Assault Awareness, you really kind of have to search for it ... I would say that Title IX itself is so undermanned in a way.” Kern stressed the importance of student involvement on campus as a way to ensure that students are aware of their rights.

Tara Stark, a sophomore history and social studies education major, appreciates the engagement between Title IX and the student body. Stark is the Student Government Association’s It’s On Us Ambassador. “They’re really trying to bring a lot of Greek Life into it, and they’re using Student Government as a liaison to bring student involvement.”

As a transfer, Stark noticed a difference at Hofstra. At her former university, Stark “did not see as much tabling and programming. The people who are involved [at Hofstra] really do care and get the word out there.”

Vernace explained that she works with many of the student groups to inform the Hofstra population. “It’s definitely something that we’ve been in talks about with students, specifically our advocacy boards with the best ways to relay policy update information ... we’re looking into sending it out in different newsletters that students receive.”

Director of Communications for Student Affairs Colin Sullivan emphasized the importance of student awareness. “Just because this doesn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean that every student should not be aware of this policy, because that’s how to help your friends. That’s how everyone can keep our community safer.”

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