The Missouri State University Board of Governors recently approved a comprehensive policy to deal with sexual misconduct on campus. KSMU’s Alissa Zhu has more on the decision.
The Title IX policy on Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Other Forms of Sexual Misconduct is a new approach formulated to improve upon existing complaint procedures in place to address issues of discrimination and sexual harassment.
The policy (page 6) prohibits and defines acts of sexual discrimination, including but not limited to sexual violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault and stalking.
Wes Pratt is MSU’s director of Institutional Equality and Compliance and Title IX coordinator.
“It defines consent, it defines what the complainant and defendant’s rights are, it outlines the steps the students are to take if they are the victims or recipients of unwanted sexual contact, as well as ensuring confidentiality to the extent that is possible depending if there is a threat to the safety of the victim or other students on campus,” said Pratt.
Additionally, the policy outlines a prevention and awareness program.
Nearly 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual assault in college, cites Caleb Doyle, the student member on the Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the policy last week.
“I think there’s a big change right now, especially with public universities. There’s been this kind of big national focus on combatting sexual assault so I think it’s necessary to redefine some things and relook at your policy and also to make people aware of what’s available,” Doyle said.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education. It has been on the forefront of national discourse as allegations have arisen that certain schools have mishandled sexual assault cases.
In January, President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. And just this month, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri released her findings of a survey asking 440 colleges and universities how they report and investigate sexual misconduct. The survey found that one in three institutions of higher learning do not train its students on how to respond to sexual violence on campus, and one in five do not train staff.
From a local level, Doyle considers Missouri State to be “ahead of the game” on the issue. He adds that as classes resume, officials will begin educating others on the new policy.
“As far as students are concerned, with the Student Government Association, this will be one of our top priorities this year is rolling out these trainings implementing them in a good way. Understanding what resources we have and advertising those and maybe creating new resources as they are necessary,” said Doyle.
The new Title IX policy is only one step in ensuring that Missouri State students can learn and thrive in a safe and secure environment. Wes Pratt says young men and women need to be respectful of one another and need to conduct themselves accordingly.
“When we fail to do that the policy allows us to take aggressive action, to provide resources, but the bottom line is we can legislate policy but in order to legislate behavior, that’s an individual decision, that’s a decision a person needs to look deep within themselves and ascertain to what extent they are going to be good citizens, they are going to be respectful, they are going to value each other as human beings,” Pratt said.