Schatzel responds to Title IX reforms

By: Natalie Bland, Staff Writer and Marcus Dieterle, News Editor

Towson University remains committed to preventing sexual assault and misconduct, and supporting survivors of sexual assault as part of Title IX procedures, according to a Sept. 13 statement from TU President Kim Schatzel.

“We will remain steadfast in this commitment as we work to influence and implement any future recommendations that may come from the US Department of Education (DOE),” Schatzel said in the statement.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination or exclusion in education on the basis of a person’s sex. Under this law, schools must also protect against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Schools that receive federal funding, including Towson University, are required to comply with Title IX.

Schatzel’s statement came in response to US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s Sept. 7 speech at George Mason University in which DeVos said DOE plans to roll back certain Title IX procedures in regard to campus sexual assault.

“We do not know the nature or timing of these reforms, but we are prepared to offer feedback on Title IX procedures to the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights,” Schatzel said in her statement. “In doing so, we will continue to advocate for measures that improve—not diminish—safety and fairness on our campus and on campuses across the country.”

In her statement, Schatzel encouraged all members of the Towson community to report sexual misconduct to the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity.

“Our intention is to be able to provide the most complete protection and advocacy, as well as support around [Title IX],” Schatzel said in an interview. “Going forward, we’re not looking at backing off at all.”

Schatzel said Towson will have to wait until more specific statements come from the Trump administration, but that TU will continue to protect students against sex discrimination.

Towson’s Student Government Association unanimously passed a resolution on Sept. 12 to “[uphold] Obama-era guidelines for handling sexual violence on Towson University’s campus.”

The resolution, which was introduced by SGA Senator Brendan Straub on behalf of SGA Vice President Breya Johnson, is meant to “hold Towson University accountable,” in compliance with Obama-era Title IX procedures, according to Johnson.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice released a Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students in which the DOJ said the prohibition of sex discrimination, which was already part of Title IX, encompassed discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender identity.

“We’ll see what and if results from the review by the Department of Education, but our position is that we’re going to maintain the types of policies and processes that we have on campus,” Schatzel said.

Schatzel said Towson University will absolutely continue to maintain protections for transgender students.

In November 2016, Towson University partnered with “It’s On Us,” the national campaign which is aimed at changing the campus culture around sexual assault.

As an It’s On Us Campus Innovation Partner School, Towson works with other partner schools to combat sexual violence on college campuses by educating campus community members about consent and bystander intervention, and by supporting survivors of sexual assault.

While Title IX is a law that protects students from discrimination and sexual misconduct, there are various other laws that protect students. Students are protected under the Towson sexual misconduct policy, Maryland state law, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

“Title IX is a very powerful tool, but there’s also a lot of other mechanisms for students under which students have rights and protections,” said Sexual Violence Prevention Educator Kailah Carden, “Just encouraging students to know all of their rights, including but not limited to Title IX, is important.”

By promoting Title IX, Lead Sexual Assault Peer Educator Rebecca Robinson hopes to create comfort around the topic of consent.

“My main goal is to have a safe space for students to come and talk about the importance of consent,” Robinson said. “Knowledge is key.”

There will be events throughout the semester promoting awareness and inclusion. There will be a Heartprint Project in Cook Library on Sept. 20, where TU community members can add their “heartprint” to an “I love consent” banner.

There will also be a Together Tigers Can End Sexual Violence Resource Fair in the University Union on Sept. 27, where community members can learn about various resources on and off
campus for preventing and responding to sexual violence.

Featured image by Marcus Dieterle.

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