You may have heard of Title IX before. It is the federal ordinance that prohibits discrimination from gender-based violence in any educational institute. Recently, it has become a hot-button issue as the Trump Administration, under Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education, has worked to roll back parts of Title IX in an effort to provide more protections for those who are accused.
One particular part of Title IX that has been called into question more recently is the Obama Era guidance from 2011 known as the “Dear Colleague Letter”. This laid out guidelines on legal obligations that schools needed to take while addressing sexual violence. Under DeVos, this regulation has been rolled back, and along with it, the guidelines regarding mandated reporters. However, Loyola continues to classify its employees as mandated reporters. What does this mean, and what is their role on campus?
The term “mandated reporter” refers to any faculty or staff member at an educational institute who has a duty to report any form of gender-based violence (defined here at Loyola as sexual assault, stalking, or dating or domestic violence) to a Title IX Coordinator. Essentially, if a student were to disclose to an employee that they had been abused or assaulted, that employee would have to let the institution’s Title IX Coordinator know what had happened. While mandated reporting was part of the guidelines that were officially rolled back from the “Dear Colleague Letter,” there was nothing offered in its replacement. Consequently, many universities around the nation still use the repealed guidelines for reporting, including Loyola.
Mandated reporting applies even if the student reveals an incident of gender-based violence in a paper, in passing, or in a meeting. It does not matter if the incident occurred off-campus, in the past, or with another individual who is not associated with Loyola. If a Loyola University Chicago student has, at any point in their life, experienced gender-based violence and discloses it to an RA, professor, administrator, etc., it will be reported to Loyola’s Title IX Deputy Coordinator through an ethics line. Robin Berman, the Senior Advocacy Coordinator at Loyola, said, “We process things at different times and healing isn’t linear. So we want to make sure that resources are at least offered to all students, regardless of when or where gender-based violence happens.” From that point, the Deputy Coordinator will send an email to the student that discusses their rights, available resources, and includes an offer for the student to meet with them.
It is when that email is sent out where things can take several different paths: the student can choose to respond to the email and get more information, they can schedule a meeting to take further action, or they can choose to ignore the email completely. But that decision is made entirely by the student. If they decide not to respond, or if they chose to schedule a meeting, it is completely their choice.
While some students may not want their stories passed on to a coordinator, Berman explains the importance of having a blanket policy. “That way, we can provide resources to everyone that might need them. And sometimes, people might be telling someone in that situation because they need a resource.” This policy is in place to provide the greatest amount of information to the greatest amount of students, while leaving the power in the hands of the student. The goal is that in every incident, a student will not be left wondering what could be done.
(Photo Courtesy of http://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/practice/social-workers-as-…)
At Loyola, every member of the faculty and staff are mandated reporters, including administration officials. However, if a students wishes to discuss an incident in confidence, there are trained individuals in the wellness center who are exempt from reporting. These are the mental health providers, medical providers, and advocates at both the Lakeshore and Water Tower wellness centers. With confidential resources, there is absolutely no risk of information moving further along an ethics line without the permission of the student. And confidential resources are not confidential by accident. They have hours of specialty training and are uniquely poised to help survivors process trauma and plan how to best access resources. “A lot of services that we provide as advocates as well as at the wellness center is about empowering survivors to make the choices that are best for them. In their life,” said Berman. “This is without getting any balls rolling, even if that ball rolling is just an email going out.”
It is important to note that there are no confidential sources at Loyola’s medical campus, which is something that Dr. James Mendez, the Student Affairs Dean, says they are working on. Until that change is made, students can always call the wellness center and have virtual appointments, or advocates like Berman will travel out to any campus to meet with any student. And the students at the medical campus all have Dean Mendez’s cell phone number, required mistreatment training, and a tight knit community to fall back on. It is a system that is not perfect, and is flawed with limitations and budget restrictions, but also one that is filled with people who care and who are working to come up with creative solutions to complex problems.
Dean Mendez noted that the system of mandated reporters, despite obligating that a report will be filed in the ethics line, does as much as it can to protect students. Even if they disclose an incident and it is reported, no further action needs to be taken if the student does not want to. Additionally, anything that is reported can stay with campus safety, if the student wishes, and does not necessarily need to be reported to the police. For a situation where a student might be an undocumented immigrant, the process of reporting is meant to still protect their safety and identity, while providing resources for the trauma they have experienced.
“The student needs to feel safe. Period,” said Dean Mendez. “He or she needs to know, ‘hey, I can go and report and the University will in some way look out for me.’”
Another important note is that clergy on campus are mandated reporters and will be expected to relay anything they hear into the ethics line. The one exception to this is if a student discussed something during the sacrament of confession, but outside of that, clergy must report.
Jay Malcolm is the Associate Athletics Director and the Title IX Deputy Coordinator for Athletics at Loyola. For the past four years, he has worked to provide required sexual violence protection education to all student athletes — a policy that was only made mandatory by the NCAA last year. To him, the policy of mandated reporting is a simple one. “Instead of getting into all all of these nuances and guess work,” he said, “If you hear about any sort of abuse, neglect, sexual assault, sexual misconduct…you’re considered mandatory reporting and have to report within 24 hours.”
Throughout the year, training is available to staff at every campus for this purpose. While training is not currently mandatory for faculty and staff, they are made aware of their mandatory duties as reporters.
“What we really want to be able to do, is make sure that everyone has access to supportive services and accommodations and the grievance procedure if they want,” said Berman. “Sometimes people don’t realize their options until they get that email or until they get that meeting. Making space for that to be normalized, to me, de-stigmatizes it and allows people to make decisions for themselves about how they want to move forward after that.”