*The following information contains language that some may find triggering as it pertains to the recent changes to Title IX.
Safer, the Office of Equal Opportunity, and ASI Student Government hosted an event on Oct. 29, 2020, to discuss the new Title IX federal regulations. Information was shared on how Cal Poly addresses sex and gender-based violence and how the new Title IX federal regulations may impact the student experience. The conversation was not meant to be a polarizing discussion, but rather an opportunity to build understanding and connect students with the knowledge and resources they need to navigate Title IX. If you were unable to attend the event or would like to watch it again, you can find the recorded webinar on the ASI YouTube channel. Below, you can also find a list of each question that was asked, a list of the panelists, and a brief summary of each answer.
- Kaitlyn Blakey, Assistant Director for the Office of Equal Opportunity
- Gillian Cutshaw, Campus Advocate with Safer
- Sarandon Gilbert, Prevention Education Lead with Safer
- Sonia Koss, ASI Secretary of Health
Questions and Answers from the Webinar:
1. Who mandates Cal Poly’s processes? How has the CSU implemented the new Title IX regulations?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: Cal Poly is a part of a 23-campus system, the CSU system. The executive orders are drafted in the Chancellor’s office and apply to Cal Poly as well as the rest of the California campuses. The Chancellor’s office must be compliant with California state and federal law. The CSU has implemented the new rules but is committed to supporting students in any way, but Cal Poly must comply.
- Gillian Cutshaw: Because we are a federally funded institution, we have to follow what is set from the Department of Education. If we do not comply, we lose our federal funding.
2. What do the new regulations really mean? What are the most significant things to be aware of regarding the new regulations?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: The new regulations total over 2,000 pages. The definition of sexual harassment looks a little bit different now. Now, the definition looks like this: “the conduct must be so severe, persistent AND objectively offensive.” Another huge change, now live hearings are required with cross-examination. This does not mean cross-examination by an attorney, this means cross-examination from a hearing officer, a third-party neutral fact-finder. Universities are now only obligated to investigate instances of potential sexual violence that occur on campus or through a campus activity. If something occurs abroad through a Cal Poly activity, Cal Poly still has jurisdiction. If two students go down to Santa Barbara and something happens, Cal Poly no longer has jurisdiction.
- Gillian Cutshaw: One of the concerns a lot of folks have is that they think the institution will investigate fewer instances of assault or ignore reports that are off campus. Cal Poly still has a policy in place that says any type of sexual misconduct is a violation and folks who commit this misconduct are subjected to sanctioning. Sexual misconduct can still be investigated, and a victim should report if they want to report. The hearing might look a little different or it might go through a single investigator model without a hearing officer. The university is still investigating instances of this type of misconduct.
3. What can we do to support survivors/what does it look like to engage in this conversation on campus? Who is here to support me?
- Sarandon Gilbert: Supporting survivors can happen in different aspects of engagement. You can take steps on the Safer website and follow Safer on social media to access these resources and repost the information we have on social media. We have to hold our communities accountable and step up and say, “I am not okay with this.” Engage with peers who are ready to have this conversation. Schedule a presentation with Safer or have this conversation in club meetings. Say “I believe survivors” to begin the conversation.
- Gillian Cutshaw: Safer advocates are here to support folks through the investigation process or folks who are considering it. Beyond Safer, there is RISE. It’s the 24-hour hotline Safer refers students to for after-hour support. If people are unsure or not comfortable with Safer, RISE is another resource. This is not something you should face by yourself. Complainants and respondents are entitled to the same support. Oftentimes we connect respondents to the Men and Masculinity program. Support exists and Safer is here.
4. Are there any ways in which the changes might increase re-traumatization of victims and what can we do to mitigate that?
- Sarandon Gilbert: It is important to ask someone, “Do you feel comfortable having this conversation? Do you want to have this conversation with me?” Checking in on someone can make all the difference and it is really important. Know your resources, we can’t expect everyone to be a counselor, but you can know the resources and how to get others in contact with those resources.
- Gillian Cutshaw: The live hearing and the cross-examination feels the most intense and most intimidating. Safer is a support system and advocate in the live hearing and throughout the whole process. If someone reports to Title IX, there are other options to a live hearing.
- Kaitlyn Blakey: Informal resolution agreements are avenues to go through a Title IX process without being subjected to a cross-examination. We are trying to let folks know what their options are.
5. How can members of the community help support survivors going through the grueling process of Title IX?
- Gillian Cutshaw: We have touched quite a bit on what Safer and friends can do. If you know someone in your life who is going through this, let them know you are there and listen without judgment. Empathize and let them know they have options and accommodations for housing and classes. There are possibilities for getting help with whatever academic accommodations they need. If someone is choosing to go through an investigation, that is a very big deal and takes a long time, they might be needing to talk about it for weeks or months. Knowing as a friend or loved one, this could bring about vicarious trauma, so it is important to get help for yourself as well. Empower your friend or loved one to make their own choices through the process. They get to decide if they want to go to counseling, continue with the investigation, or choosing an early resolution agreement.
6. Do we expect there to be a new set of regulations based on the November presidential election? What would that look like for Cal Poly?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: I really wish I had a crystal ball because I would love to be able to know exactly what is going to happen and what to expect. The reality is that this is just the nature of things that are federally regulated. We just don’t know. I would expect a Biden Department of Education to look very different from a Trump Department of Education. We can only speculate how so. It takes a lot of time for regulatory changes to go into effect. You can look at how long it took to put these regulations into effect. We just got the final new regulations this August from changes made last November. I would not expect anything to change by January 2021. The laws are changing, and we just do not know.
7. How do COVID-19 health regulations impact reporting/disclosing?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: When we are doing a Title IX investigation, the last thing we are really worried about is whether someone was drinking underage. We provide immunity while someone is drinking underage and being harmed. We are trying to get the facts like how much was consumed, what was consumed. In the same spirit of that immunity, we offer immunity toward COVID-19 health regulations. We don’t want folks being worried about getting trouble for violating a COVID regulation if they need our services or were potentially harmed.
- Sarandon Gilbert: Safer is not going to report you out or get you in trouble for breaking a student conduct policy. Resources are still available regardless of their experiences with the COVID regulations.
8. What is an informal resolution and a full investigation? What is the difference, and which one should I choose? Can the respondent decide to not participate in an informal resolution?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: An informal resolution, also known as an early resolution agreement, is an agreement in which both parties voluntarily enter in to. They tend to have more of a restorative justice flavor to it, both parties collaborate to come up with terms acceptable to both parties. It’s things like mandated education or training, no contact orders, specified times for common areas. Parties can agree to this at any time through the process. An investigation involves evidence, gathering, and speaking to both parties. It involves a hearing, which we talked about earlier. It would violate my neutrality if I tell you to choose one or the other. It is my job to make sure the parties understand what their options are.
- Gillian Cutshaw: We are just here to provide you with info and help you through the process. We try to help you figure out what is best for you.
9. Can I decide to not go through with an investigation at any time?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: Yes, a person who files a complaint can decide at any point it’s not for them and that they would like to walk away. That is entirely in their right.
10. Can I report my perpetrator anonymously?
- Kaitlyn Blakey: There are confidential reporting avenues that we have discussed already, that is Title IX and counseling services. If a person is looking to anonymously report, they should access those services. Title IX however is not anonymous, and you are required to disclose personal information.
11. How do we learn more?
- Sarandon Gilbert: There are so many ways to learn. First thing is following Safer on social media. Along with that, you can take Safer leadership training which is an in-depth training to learn more about this topic. On Safer social media, we have a great Title IX infographic that relates to Cal Poly and the CSU system. There are so many opportunities for more through @calpolysafer.
While we were not able to address specific situational questions to protect privacy and confidentiality, we are still here to support you. We would encourage you to schedule an appointment with Safer or the Office of Equal Opportunity to address those concerns directly. Thank you again to everyone who attended the event or watched the recorded webinar, and thank you to our amazing panelists for answering each question so thoughtfully and thoroughly! We hope that this event left you with some clarity on the new Title IX regulations and what this means for students at Cal Poly.