SDSU aims to provide resources through Title IX training

Following a recent push by the Board of Regents to regulate handling of sexual violence complaints regarding Title IX and sexual violence, SDSU has created a series of training and compliance awareness for students, faculty and staff.

The training includes online and in-person training and a Compliance Manual which ensures consistency in how issues are investigated. A Title IX coordinator was hired in March of 2014 and subsequently two more positions were created to handle Title IX and sexual violence reports and investigations.

Although the trainings follow a push by the BOR, there is no statewide mandated training, so this training was developed by SDSU.  The university wants to establish a safe environment for students. The training was created to help increase awareness, give students knowledge about how to report concerns and prevent a reoccurrence of harmful situations, said Title IX Coordinator, Michelle Johnson.

Prior to the Title IX Coordinator position being created, Johnson, worked under a conduct umbrella of student affairs. She had a lot of investigations dealing with Title IX and Equal Opportunity, prompting the creation of a separate position. “When a Title IX or EEO investigation pops up, it’s never just one or two people, it includes anyone who saw, heard or was affected,” said Dean of Students, Sam Jennings. To assist with these investigations, there are also six trained deputy coordinators.

Student Affairs helps in resolving Title IX complaints when they involve a student conduct hearing, which is not often, according to Jennings. Student Affairs is also involved in getting students to complete the online training and, as always, encourage students to make good decisions, Jennings said. Additionally, if a student has an issue in a residence hall or a class, Student Affairs helps in the process of resolving the matter.

“It is important students know how to report and feel comfortable doing so,” Jennings said.

Title IX deals with discrimination based on gender. EEO encompasses many different types of discrimination including discrimination based on race, nationality, origin and gender.

When many people think of Title IX, they think of equality in sports, but it is much more than that said Sarah Meusburger, Title IX training coordinator.

This is the first time that SDSU has created a standalone position regarding Title IX, Meusburger said. Meusburger was originally hired in March as the Title IX/EEO Coordinator. Before, any Title IX or EEO discrimination reports were handled by someone in student affairs who dealt with conduct as well as other tasks.

In September, the Title IX/ EEO position was broken into three positions: a training coordinator, a full-time position for investigation and a coordinator role for overseeing compliance and investigation.

Meusburger’s job is separate from that of Johnson’s because, Meusburger said, the training aspect is too big to take on in addition to the investigations.

Meusburger gave a two-day leadership training to the president, provost, deans, directors and other faculty and staff members in August. She is also in charge of training a campus-wide advisory committee of about 22 people all around campus. All of these people have received training and know how to handle situations brought to their attention, and can pass them on to Johnson.

“We can’t be everywhere at once, they are the eyes and ears,” Meusburger said.

All student affairs employees, as well as all other faculty and staff went through an online training as well as attending day-long sessions on campus and in Sioux Falls, Jennings said.

In August, an online training was sent to 16,000 staff, faculty and students. So far, about 10,000 of the recipients have completed the training. The student version takes about 10 minutes, while the employee version takes about 45 minutes to complete, as it includes more specific policy language. 

Currently, SDSU is working on building a website and finalizing an institutional policy that includes how to deal with complaints of discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence. The policies were drafted in April 2014.

After the campus-wide training, Meusburger said she has seen a spike in reports from just two in 2012 to over 90 in the past six months.

“We see it as a positive, now people know how to get access to resources they need,” Meusburger said.

Anyone who reports a sexual assault can, for the most part, maintain control of where the process goes. The complainant has control over whether charges are pursued or not. Johnson said that victims of sexual assault are not required to pursue charges, but recommends victims talk with SDSUPD or the Title IX/EEO coordinator about the incident, as they are a resource to students.

“We want to be there to provide support, even without pursuing an investigation,” Meusburger said. “We want to know about off-campus incidents as well in order to help students.”

Students can report to the 24-hour Campus Compliance Hotline, partnered with Lighthouse Services. Students can report to Lighthouse online or over the phone and have the option to file anonymous reports. Lighthouse will then relay the call to the appropriate party, whether it be Johnson or SDSUPD if it is a matter that needs to be addressed immediately, Johnson said.

“We want to work with students and staff to try and resolve the issue through an investigation and take measures to prevent it from happening again,” Johnson said.