Ithaca College has taken a step forward by deciding to set a concrete budget for the Title IX office, which has, in the past, been an office mostly unknown to the student body until times of crisis.
The Title IX office, which handles complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination at the college, should occupy a greater role than as an adjudicator when issues arise. It should also be a leader in providing educational programs on sexual assault and discrimination issues. This is a step in that direction.
Allocating money to this office on an as-needed basis is likely to limit the office’s capabilities to just handling problems and assault cases. With an actual budget, the office can be accountable for allocating funds to educational programming, faculty and staff training sessions, and awareness campaigns. Plans to expand into these areas more are already in the works: Title IX Coordinator Tiffani Ziemann said the office will work with the Student Government Association in the fall to create a Title IX committee, and the One Love Foundation from the University of Virginia will partner with the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics to foster awareness programs and campaigns.
As it is right now, the Title IX office does not play a very proactive role on campus. On March 4, Ziemann sent an email to the campus community with an update on the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education initiative. The email listed procedures for confidential and private reporting, and information about campus resources and students’ rights. The crux of the email, however, was informing students about the legislation Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in July 2015 requiring all colleges in New York state to adopt comprehensive affirmative consent policies and procedures.
But the delay — more than a semester and a half after the news — is puzzling, and it caused a stir among some students who expressed frustration at the timing and the medium of the message. This information would have been better and more effectively dispensed in the form of in-person sessions.
Now, the college has afforded the Title IX office the flexibility to create more of these programs, collaborations and resources that will position the office in a more proactive role. It is essential that the campus community always be on the same page regarding these intimate issues, and the Title IX office can be at the forefront of this initiative.