We chose to have a panel discussion on a topic not well known at many schools, Title IX. The primary focus we want to look at in regards to Title IX is that “all forms of sexual harassment, including but not limited to, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault are violations of Title IX and prohibited by UNL.” UNL’s provided definition of sexual assault is: “Sexual assault or contact occurs when a person subjects another person to sexual penetration or contact without consent, or when it is known the other person is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or appreciating the nature of the one’s own conduct due to drug or alcohol use or other incapacity.” As you can see these definitions do not line up and UNL’s definition is very broad and vague.
We want to break down and help students better define sexual assault in ways that are less confusing and more direct and understandable in a clear manner. Also the information in regards to Title IX we would like to propose that we implement it into the new system of choice being Canvas. We would also like to target a suggestion on the Women’s Center to become more male friendly as well potentially created an area for men to be able to access the same resources but in a male comfortable environment, even if that means a designated area for them in the Women’s Center because of the fact that if we get everyone involved in the conversation, being sexual assault, it would help our proposal moving from every direction. UNL students are our primary target audience. Another big target group is that of Greek Life here on campus, because they offer on Monday nights for anyone to come and elevator pitch ideas and knowledge to them before their scheduled chapter meetings. Another suggestion that Jennifer Rome, our graduate TA, offered was to have an open discussion talk with the topic of sexual assault and see if maybe teachers could offer students extra credit or some other incentive for attending.
Once we had finalized our campaign topic, it was time to put our ideas into action. Starting with Canvas, we needed to find the person was capable of making changes to the new site, or at least someone to help us get our idea’s foot in the door. After reaching out to multiple individuals in search of this person, we finally got a name: Jeremy Van Hof. Once we knew who to contact, we sent out a formal email explaining our project in hopes to create an additional resource tab for the students benefit at UNL on the main Canvas homepage when students log in. This gentleman did not take us seriously and brushed our request off his shoulder, giving us a half answer and a link to the UNL websites resource section. We were taken back by this occurrence because we knew that there were ways to find the resources available at UNL, but the point was to put it somewhere easy for everyone to find on Canvas, similarly to Blackboard. Our request was simple, we asked if we could incorporate Title IX somewhere on the homepage of Canvas as it is on Blackboard now. This could simply be done by adding another box that looks similar to the class boxes. We also asked if it was possible that this box could lead to other areas of help, such as tutoring, women’s center or health center, CAPS, and various other commonly used student resourced. After receiving an answer that was less than helpful, we turned to a high authority figure, Professor Rome, who then emailed the man stating that this is for a legitimate issue and also for a class, but got no reply or further action. Realizing we were not going to get any kind of rely or help, we sent one final email to Van Hof in search of any kind of answer. The email entailed a summary of our previous correspondence, along with asking if he had any intention of including our ideas or something similar in the near future and if he understood the importance of these resources having a place on Canvas, which everyone will use next year. At this moment, we have not received any reply back.
Our next step was to interview the Women’s Center located in the third floor of the City Union. Our main topics of discussion with the volunteers who work there were related to what they could tell us about Title IX, what they offer for men who attend the university, what they think they can improve on as far as student outreach and services provided, etc. When we asked what services were offered specifically for men, they informed us of a group called Men @ Nebraska. This group meets once a month and discusses various issues dealing with masculinity. The volunteers were very vague when presenting us with the information about the student group, so we decided to research them online and see what we could find. It turns out that Men @ Nebraska is not a group mainly focused on Title IX and sexual assault, as the Women’s Center is, but instead it is a group that focuses on issues pertaining to masculinity. We also found that this group was open to all genders, to technically it is not male-specific like the Women’s Center is female-specific. Another factor we found interesting was the fact that the group’s information has not been updated online in over a year.
Then on April 18 we held a discussion, that included a panel, about Title IX. To prepare for this event we emailed Professor Rome who then got us into contact with all of the women’s and gender studies department and we sent out a group emails telling everyone about the event and if anyone would like to participate as a panel member to help facilitate the discussion and to add their thoughts and findings. Also we added that this presentation could be an extra credit session for their students that could attend. After not getting many to reply we sought out the class for help. We sent out yet another group email asking anyone to join the panel and give their thoughts, being limited on time we decided to move forward. Along with contacting others we also printed out 60 posters and hung them around campus. Professor Rome was our own teacher who was a panel member along with Kelsey, Alison and Kate. At our panel discussion, we had nine people attend, not including ourselves and Professor Rome. Seven of those were UNL students, who were involved in various groups on campus like Greek Life and RSOs, and two were high school students who appeared to be fairly involved with high school activities as well. To start off the evening we had some food catered, by Yowie’s Lodge, to also peek the interest of students to participate in the discussion. Before our presentation before we created an anonymous way for people to submit questions in case they were uncomfortable asking. Then Alison started by giving a presentation on Title IX exclusively from UNL provided information. The way they chose to word their phrases and the language they chose got some people to share their thoughts about how the vague wording can cause confusion in what may be classified. The highlight of the evening is when we started asking questions about sororities getting more access to Title IX than other students at UNL, what would we do about getting this into high schools and the different aspects for college vs. high school.
To begin we have a member of our group, Kate, who is in a sorority and had brought three of her fellow sisters along with her to the discussion. When we started talking about sororities and how Title IX affects their Greek experience, almost everyone contributed in the conversation, even if they were not Greek. An interesting point we hit was how some girls involved in Greek Life have been raped or sexually assaulted while in college, and are afraid to come out because of what their sisters might think or that their house will be investigated. One person talked about how it is so scary for a girl to be so afraid of her sisters she would rather see her attacker on the same campus and be in the same classes as him, than to report him and have him receive repercussions for his actions. Also in our audience, we had two high school girls who were taking a women’s and genders study online. They talked about how they didn’t even know what Title IX was, and how they had never been exposed to it. One of the girls was looking through her handbook and also found no evidence of this topic. They felt so passionately about the discussion they were ready to go and give a presentation to their whole school, but were hesitant because they knew their class body would not take this topic seriously and only make a joke out of it. Most people in the room spoke out and also stated that they had never had a Title IX talk in high school. This is where it needs to begin, if no then, then when you are a freshman in college. One girl stressed how she think a required class should be made for freshman to attend to see how important and serious this topic is. Closing our discussion Professor Rome pulled up a website for all of us to look at called KnowYourIX.org. On this website we looked at high schools and some of their indicators someone is breaking or in violation of Title IX and the one that shocked us the most was interfering with your birth control. That was never mentioned in the college one. Why are these small differences not included in the other? Our panel discussion started around 7:00 PM and ended at 8:30 PM, but everyone in the room could have kept going.
What we did well was getting people to come to our panel. Nine people may not sound like much, but nine is better than none. With Title IX you have to get people talking about it. With it being a more sensitive subject it gets pushed under the rug a lot and having these people come shows that people do care and want to take action. We also sought help from our superiors who either helped us in the case of Professor Rome or who constrained us in the case of the Canvas guy. I think if we had to re-do this and start all over I would try and reach a larger audience. Our small group of people talked for an hour and a half and could have chatted all night, I could only imagine what kind of discussions we would get if we had a room full of 100 people. But then again the intimate setting of 11 people being able to be vulnerable together is a moment that you can never pass up. Being mostly girls in the room brought everyone a little closer and people shared details of their lives they haven’t shared with many people. Moments like that you are not able to reach with 100 people.
Going forward, we plan to follow up with the Women’s Center to create a male-specific place for men to go to and feel comfortable talking about various topics relating to Title IX and sexual assault. The idea is that men will one day have their own specific office in the Union, such as the Women’s Center, where similar resources can be provided. The first step in going about this action would be to get into contact with the Union’s main office about finding a space for the office, and then from there searching for volunteers who would be interested in working in said office. Another step we would like to take is to reach out to high school students, in hopes to end the stigma that sexual assault is a joke, and help them realize that it is not a topic to take lightly. How we would go about this goal would be to create a presentation that will directly connect with the demographic of high school students, and get into contact with school officials to present said presentation. Finally, we would like to end the entire negative stigma about sexual assault on college campuses. We believe that right now, the current stigma is that it is going to happen to you, and that you will just have to deal with it. There is also an issue with students, and even faculty/staff, not wanting to educate themselves about the topics of Title IX and sexual assault because they feel as if it is being forced. Therefore, an idea we discussed during our panel discussion is to contact the university about offering a class that taught students everything that they needed to know about Title IX, such as what it is, what your rights are, how to handle/combat the situation, etc.
If we were to complete this project again, communication would be a big factor that we could improve on a second time around. Although communication within our group was well maintained, our communication with the outside world could have been stronger. Some examples of how we could improve this grey area might include inviting our class to the open panel discussion via email so that everyone was fully aware of the event, putting out our flyers earlier in advance so that people could plan for our event within their schedules, and finally, communicating with the campus in more creative ways as a whole a lot earlier than we did. We feel that if we were to involved the student body sooner than when we did, we might have had more people involved in our movement than what we did.