University Expands Title IX Office to Focus on Prevention and Support

Feb 03, 2021

Despite procedural changes to Title IX at the federal level in 2020, Humboldt State University has expanded services to provide support and resources to survivors of sexual violence.

Despite procedural changes to Title IX at the federal level in 2020, Humboldt State University has expanded services to provide support and resources to survivors of sexual violence.

Last year, HSU’s Title IX & Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Prevention office (DHR) tripled its capacity by adding two full-time staff members, reaffirming the University’s commitment to providing support and resources to survivors of sexual violence. The office has also launched a renewed focus on reducing classroom bias experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming students, increasing support for pregnant and parenting students, and educating the HSU community through outreach.

Title IX Coordinator David Hickcox explains that the Department of Education amended Title IX, first signed into law in 1972, last summer. The jurisdictional changes enacted under the Trump administration, which narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, sowed confusion and alarm across college campuses nationwide. But Hickcox stresses that the clunky legal language, while difficult to understand, primarily changed Title IX reporting requirements and hearing processes, not the University’s purview to investigate claims that happen off campus.

HSU is committed to providing resources to students who report sexual misconduct,” says Hickcox. “We thoroughly investigate any and all reports, both on and off campus.”

The Title IX/DHR office acts as an objective agency while conducting a thorough and confidential investigation into reports of sexual misconduct.

If a case does not fall under the new Title IX regulations, due to the location (off campus) or the type of alleged harm, Hickcox explains that it will still be investigated under the Sexual Misconduct and Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation executive order.

HSU’s ability and commitment to providing campus accommodations, such as crisis services, has remained the same for all students,” says Hickcox.

While the federal government narrowed the scope of qualifications for a Title IX case, California State University took additional measures to ensure that sexual misconduct cases outside the Title IX purview now fall under DHR.

“The level of service and advocacy we provide to students has actually increased in the past year,” says Hickcox, who is also the DHR Prevention Administrator.

After an internal audit and review in 2020, the CSU Chancellor’s Office found that HSU’s Title IX office was meeting state and federal compliance. But in order to launch a proactive, prevention-focused effort on campus, HSU added investigator Allan Ford and program analyst Nicki Viso to the campus Title IX/DHR team last year.

In addition to allocating more resources to preventing sexual misconduct and gender bias at HSU, the Title IX/DHR staff continues to work with trained community partners. The office contracts with North Coast Rape Crisis to provide 24-hour crisis services and collaborates closely with Campus Advocate Team and CHECK-IT, a student-led sexual violence bystander intervention program. Another key partner is the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, which is a collaboration of students, faculty, and staff to develop policies that prevent sexualized violence.

Hickcox explains that in 90% of all cases, campus partners and advocates provide the mentorship necessary to resolve an issue.

“This is important for students to understand because we don’t want students to be fearful of the reporting process,” says Hickcox. “Due process is a good thing for everyone involved.”

This Spring, the Title IX/DHR office is also focused on assessing students needs around gender discrimination issues and will play a larger role in educating University staff and faculty about misgendering, which can do harm to transgender and gender non-conforming students.

“Overall, we want students to know that we’re here for them,” says Hickcox. “If you experience unwelcome conduct, treatment, or any form of harassment, report it, and the University will respond immediately and effectively.”

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