By Christian Loeffler
At the end of a recent screening of a sexual assault documentary Roll Red Roll hosted by the Title IX Office in the PAC, attendees were surprised when senior Kristopher Kell spoke up and expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Title IX program.
Kell spoke with The Review about his concerns, and Eileen Flinn, Title IX Coordinator, explained the role and functions of the Title IX program.
“I know at Saint Vincent a lot of students feel, me especially, that the institution isn’t doing enough to protect them,” Kell stated.
Kell said he thinks that there is a perception among college administrators that, if they talk openly about sex and acknowledge that students are having sex, the college is not following the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“If we don’t talk about things like consent, don’t talk about what is and isn’t sexual assault, [and] don’t talk about how to protect people even if they aren’t doing ‘Catholic things,’ then we are failing them, not just as an academic institution but as a Catholic institution,” he said.
Kell explained that he thinks those at Title IX are trying to provide people with the resources they have available. However, he said, he thinks there is not a lot of understanding of how nerve-wracking it can be to talk about negative experiences.
“I think the fact that our community is so strong here means that maybe we will be able to deal with [sexual misconduct] more effectively than other schools if we’re willing to talk about it,” he said.
Flinn stated they are continually reviewing, assessing, and getting feedback on the Title IX program.
“Every year since I’ve been in this position, we’ve made changes to policy, to the materials, to the programming, to the activities, who I bring in, who I work with, and how I approach tasks,” she said.
Flinn stated that at the end of the last two academic years, a table has been made available in the Carey Center for students to fill out surveys about the program, including what types of future activity and program installments would be preferred, in addition to online surveys. In response to student feedback, personal safety classes were introduced in Fall 2018 and gender-specific in-person education sessions for freshmen in Fall 2019.
Having been appointed to the role of Title IX Coordinator in the middle of August 2016, Flinn said that current seniors are the only class to not have had “the benefit of first-year in-person education training sessions about the Title IX process,” though some may have received some form through athletics, orientation committees, being a prefect, and other opportunities.
One point that Kell stated during the Roll Red Roll event was that there is uncertainty in the annual Clery Act Report, which details crime statistics on campus.
Flinn explained that statistics included in the document are “based on reports made to entities known as campus security authorities,” such as prefects, professors, campus police, and so forth. She also stated that only on-campus incidents are included and that they have to meet “criteria for what is the criminal definition that is set out in the statute and state law.”
At the Roll Red Roll event, Kell stated that he felt he did not receive the support that he needed after a situation that occurred during his freshman year. Students were shocked when Title IX remained partially unresponsive to his concerns at the event, Kell said.
Flinn said that a few students have come to her and said they were not happy with the way the Roll Red Roll event ended. She said she explained to them why she couldn’t address, even if she wanted to, what was said at the end.
“I’m prohibited and I would never breech the confidence that a student put in me,” she stated.
According to Flinn, there are certain Title IX services that students are often unaware of which, may cause students to think nothing is being done. She stated that Title IX is “not a substitute for going to law enforcement” and that it is the responsibility of the student to make that decision, though Title IX can aid the process.
Flinn said her primary focus is getting students connected to supports and assistance that helps them heal, work through the trauma of their experience and assists them in getting their degree, whether they need academic accommodations, need access to counseling, and so on.
She explained that an investigation, if that is what the victim wants, takes typically “anywhere from sixty to ninety days depending on the number of people who need to be spoken with” and that while the parties involved in an investigation are informed about the progress and outcomes, the college is legally unable to share that information with the campus community.
Following the Red Roll Red event, Kell has had the chance to work with Title IX.
He said they are “trying to get some things rolling” with Dr. Daly, assistant professor of criminology, law, and society, and with Flinn about “raising some awareness” so that students can be more comfortable to talk about subjects like sexual misconduct.
Kell stated that he would recommend that students be open to the idea of reporting, pursuing action, and surrounding themselves with persons who will support decisions.
“The fact that I called out the Title IX program on not being as effective as they should be doesn’t mean people shouldn’t go to them when there is a problem,” he said.
Flinn said that she encourages students to email Title IX, stop by the office, make suggestions, and get involved in programs.