College trustees are pushing administration to update sexual misconduct policies, hire an effective Title IX officer, and start changing the campus culture as it relates to sexual assault and rape.
President Dr. Kindred Murillo said Board Policy 3540, a handbook of the college’s new sexual misconduct rules, has been drafted and will be presented to the governing board soon.
“We’re actually very excited because this handbook provides the information on how to file, what to do and resources for support,” Murillo said. “We want to act on a complaint, but we also want to provide resources. That sometimes gets left out.”
BP 3540 was modeled after a policy developed by the Orange Coast Community College District, she said. It will more clearly define what constitutes sexual misconduct, how to educate the SWC community and provide staff with procedures on how to handle sexual misconduct.
Murillo said hiring a qualified Title IX officer is another priority. SWC has had a series of temporary and short-lived appointees to the position, including Dr. Donna Arnold, who is now suing the college for racial discrimination.
“(The hiring committee) is based on our policies and procedures for hiring an administrator,” she said. “Then they’ll go through a first and second level interview.”
Colleges and universities that receive federal funding are required to employ a Title IX officer to uphold and investigate acts of gender biases or sexual misconduct. SWC has been rife with complaints by students and employees about rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. A former Campus Police student worker recently filed a lawsuit charging three campus police employees with attempted rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that spanned two years. She also charged that Campus Police Chief Michael Cash was complicit and did nothing when she reported the alleged misconduct to him.
There is currently no Title IX officer at SWC following the resignation of Traci Beccera. Murillo said the college is taking seriously the absence of a Title IX officer and will insist on a proper interview process.
Student leaders and some members of the faculty have worked together to increase awareness about sexual assault and Title IX. Dean of Student Services Dr. Malia Flood and ASO Vice President of Public Relations Nada Dibas said an informational flier is in process. They took on the task of condensing the wordy federal law into more easily understood language. Dibas said it is imperative that students know their rights and speak up when they see sexual misconduct.
“I didn’t title it Title IX because I feel like no one knows (what it is),” she said. “When you start off with Title IX, it’s either instantly a turn off for some people or they think it doesn’t relate to them.”
Title IX is a game-changing regulation written by former Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink known for its protection against gender discrimination in college sports. Dibas said many people do not realize that besides leveling the sports playing field for women, Title IX strongly condemns and forbids campus sexual misconduct. At Southwestern College, Title IX violations have most commonly related to sexual misconduct, including some high-profile cases of administrators harassing students or looking the other way.
Murillo said SWC meets the athletic gender requirements well, but that society has not paid enough attention to sexual misconduct issues in the past.
“The thing we see the most of is unwelcomed sexual conduct,” she said.
Flood has added a PowerPoint slide about sexual misconduct to SWC’s student orientation. An information video was also included in the orientation presentation.
ASO is currently writing a resolution that would take information from the Flood-Dibas Title IX fact sheet and put it on larger stickers that will be mounted in every bathroom on campus. Dibas said their goal is to educate people throughout the college on how to handle a sexual assault as a victim or as the person entrusted with the information about sexual misconduct.
“It’s really common for students on campus,” she said. “They go through this stuff and they feel helpless and it sucks because the system is not in favor of everyone. We do what we can to try and get that out there. It’s important.”