As sexual assault becomes an ever-growing issue on college campuses, many universities are taking new measures to raise awareness, including seminars during orientation and mandatory courses on the issue.
From Sept. 8 to 10, USF’s department of Diversity, Inclusion & Equal Opportunity (DIEO) is hosting the USF 2015 Title IX Conference, an event consisting of discussion panels, conferences and group activities to raise awareness of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Crystal Coombes, department of DIEO senior deputy Title IX coordinator, said she considers USF very proactive for being one of the first universities in the country to hold a seminar dedicated to this initiative. This rally is also the first of its kind at USF.
“Title IX is so important on a college campus because it affects every single person,” Coombes said. “It takes everyone to make a change and create a new culture for all Bulls, and USF is on a cutting edge standard for Title IX.”
Signed into law in 1972, Title IX is a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in any federally funded education program, including colleges and universities. The law also requires schools, in addition to the police, to handle reports of sexual assault on campus.
While schools that mishandle sexual assault cases can be held accountable, more than 61 colleges and universities were investigated by the Department of Education for Title IX violations last year, according to a 2014 Chronicle of Higher Education article.
The first event of the three-day Title IX rally begins with a showing of the film “The Hunting Ground,” followed by a discussion panel of the symbolism and connection the film has in relation to the subject. The showing begins at 6:30 pm at the Marshall Student Center (MSC).
The next day begins with the 2015 Title IX Campus Kick-Off, which will include student activities throughout the day at Bull Market, followed by the Know Your IX On 9/9 Rally in the evening.
During the rally, program coordinator and keynote speaker Zoe Ridolfi-Starr will talk about Title IX and her website knowyourix.org. This website provides an outlet for students experiencing any kind gender based harassment, as well as an information center for those seeking out more information on the law. The rally begins at 6:30 p.m. at the MSC Amphitheater.
Decorated U.S. Air Force Vietnam War Veteran Kathleen Roberts will visit campus during the full-day Title IX conference on the last day of the event, beginning at 7:30 a.m. A university press release stated many sessions of this conference will be live streamed throughout the USF System and the conference is free and includes lunch for those who have registered.
Roberts will speak about Title IX and her story as a transgender woman. By sharing this at USF, Roberts hopes to increase awareness and create an era more accepting of transgender individuals. The conference begins at 8:00 a.m. at the MSC.
Throughout the rally, coordinators will offer general and professional event tracks to create different event experiences. Coombes said the professional-style events include recent research and studies on Title IX, while the general track events include demonstrations on bystander intervention and how to appropriately deal with sexual harassment in real life situations.
Although the Title IX program has only been at USF for six months, Coombes said the department plans to incorporate Broadway plays like “The Yellow Dress” into future informational segments, as well as monthly discussion panels to continue the spread of information across campus.
“We are trying to make this an annual thing, continuing education about Title IX each month,” she said.