Title IX draws focus at Queering the Island event

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Raul Alonzo Jr./ISLAND WAVES- (From left) Professor of English Dr. Sarah Salter, Professor of Modern European History Dr. Sandrine Sanos, and Professor of English Dr. Jarred Wiehe share a laugh during the Queering the Island event Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the UC Anchor Ballroom C. The faculty panel for the event facilitated discussion around Jennifer Doyle’s book-length essay “Campus Sex/Campus Security.”

Around 27 students and faculty members attended a panel discussion surrounding topics discussing Title IX, campus security, and sexuality as part of the Queering the Island seminar series.

Held Nov. 6 in the UC Anchor Ballroom C, the panel included Assistant Professors of English Drs. Sarah Salter and Jarred Wiehe and Professor of Modern European History Dr. Sandrine Sanos.

The discussion centered around a book-length essay published by University of California — Riverside Professor of English Dr. Jennifer Doyle entitled “Campus Sex/Campus Security.” The publication examines the relationships between campus policing and Title IX.

In it, Doyle focuses on what she sees as the practice of college campuses making security or administrative decisions based on a fear of incurring Title IX violations.

According to the Department of Education website, under Title IX, which passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, public universities cannot discriminate against students on the basis of sex. As outlined in what’s referred to as the “Dear Colleague” letter issued by the DOE Office of Civil Rights in 2011 that reinterpreted parts of Title IX, sexual harassment and sexual violence infringe on the rights of students to receive an education, and failure to address this can lead to funding revocation for said campuses.

Though the faculty panelists agreed that the text opened up conversation, the piece was not without criticism.

According to Salter, the organizers were familiar with the text prior to the event, as well as discussions surrounding the institutionalization of rape reportage and rape culture within academic and intellectual circles. However, they had not yet read through the text in full before settling on it, partly as a means to help engage in conversation with students.

“We picked it because we knew it was a conversation that was happening, and we were interested in having that conversation,” Salter said. “But it also is a conversation that we think is important for students to be able to listen to and participate in, and there clearly don’t seem to be a ton of opportunities for that. Not because the institution is failing at informing people on Title IX, but because there aren’t a lot of settings like this where people with very different experiences come together to have a conversation that seems pretty informal.”

Much of the conversation centered on the text itself, including what some considered the personal perspective Doyle approached her writing with and how it may differ in various contexts. Much attention was also paid to notions of vulnerability as well as the personification of institutions.

Conversation also revolved around the accessibility students had to information regarding Title IX in general. One student mentioned not having known about the law until the event.

For Dr. Jennifer Sorensen, an associate professor of English, some steps that may help inform more about Title IX include more training for faculty.

“More training for faculty about exactly what the process looks like for students I think would be a huge help,” Sorensen said, “in terms of us being able to help provide the empathy. They come to faculty because faculty are the faces of empathy at the institution, and if we don’t know how to actually navigate the structures that kind of diminish that empathy, that’s a real problem.”

Another place students can go to learn about Title IX includes a section on the TAMU-CC website, which briefly explains the law and provides the contact information for campus coordinators and links to other resources.

These issues were wrestled with throughout the event, oftentimes through conversations students had with each other, a sign that, for Salter, meant the event was successful.

“The moment in an event where students start to talk to each other and students start to bring their own expertise in the face of various professors who have said, professionally, things out loud,” said Salter, ” … those are the moments when I feel an event has really become successful, when I can tell that it’s successful because those are moments that the audience stops being the audience and starts being the drivers of what’s happening. That’s the goal of events like this always and my goal as an instructor. So, I think that, to me, was fabulous.”