RMU focuses on Title IX

Bailey Neale, Contributor

Beginning this semester, Robert Morris University student leaders and faculty members will undergo Title IX training.

The university wants both groups familiar with the law and its requirements. The training sessions began on Sept. 15, and will continue throughout the school year.

“The Office of Civil Rights has requirements for what campuses need to do to prepare all of their employees,” said RMU’s Title IX Coordinator Yasmin Purohit. “Sometimes students are employees, so we want to make sure that we actually proactively help train every RMU employee so that they know what the compliance requirements are.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In other words, Title IX promotes gender equality in all activities on campus, and ensures an equal educational experience

Through the Title IX office on campus, and the policy that is currently being developed by a panel of several RMU faculty members, the university is especially focused on trying to end sexual violence on campus, which was the purpose for the first training sessions. Students and faculty are also learning the procedure to report a case of sexual violence if they know of one and how to properly assist a victim.

“I think if we step back and say ‘Why is this in place?’, it’s in place so we can one; begin really talking about this issue and two; end it,” said Randon Willard, wellness and crisis counselor.  “We can begin talking about consent in a really healthy way, and we can begin talking about sexual violence to say that it’s wrong, and we need to be able to have these conversations.”

In addition to the in-person training, student leaders are required to take an online training course called “Think About It” which also discusses Title IX and sexual violence in more detail, as well as other campus safety topics.

“These are very, very real scenarios that many college students may be faced with, and it’s very good that we have this training to get our student leaders looking at what might happen,” said Ryan Painter, representing Top Secret Colonials and Alpha Phi Omega.

The university’s policy is being strengthened now partly in response to national policies recently enforced by the Office of Civil Rights. This April, the Obama administration also launched ‘Not Alone,’ which provides assistance to students and schools across the nation, according to a Valerie Jarrett and Lynn Rosenthal The White House Blog report.

“I would say that we’ve always been extremely vigilant about campus misconduct through our office of student life, and we have a good thorough student conduct policy. We have been doing things that are attentive,” said Purohit. “However, I have to say that the increase in national attention to this topic since 2011 is what has also promoted us to make sure that we are in sync with what the office of civil rights requires so we want to make sure we are compliant, but we have always been vigilant about it.”

Other colleges across the nation, including many Pittsburgh area schools including Duquesne University, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University also have a strong focus on Title IX. Duquesne and Pitt both provide vast resources regarding sexual assault and Title IX directly on their websites.

RMU’s Title IX trainings will continue throughout the fall semester with different sessions starting in January. Although the next sessions will focus on different topics, Title IX will continue to be an important aspect of responsibility for student leaders.