Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Title IX hiring students for physical office

Title IX Coordinator Kim Irland sits at her desk. Irland’s office is located right outside of the Flynt Commons, the seating area on the second floor of the Angell College Center.

 

By Brionne Thompson

College campuses can be a very frightening change of scenery for first-years, and when entering adulthood, it can be difficult being responsible and always aware of everything around. Kimberly Irland is the new coordinating officer for SUNY Plattsburgh’s Title IX office, and she is here to stay. 

It’s been about two years without a permanent or in-person officer to consult students about their experiences. When searches for Title IX coordinators failed, the college hired professionals from the firm Grand River Solutions, which provides colleges with Title IX services remotely.

College campuses can be a hotspot for sexual assault, gender or sex discrimination with behavior such as stalking, abusive relationships, sexual assault and hate crimes. Title IX specializes in preventing discrimination. 

College campuses desperately need to have a Title IX office. Each year, SUNY Plattsburgh administers a Campus Climate Survey. In 2021, 81% of of 1,033 student respondents indicated familiarity with affirmative consent, 87% of students said someone who is incapacitated cannot provide consent, 707 students reported knowing where to report incidents of sexual assault, 678 reported knowing where to report sexual harassment and 75% of students reported knowing how to contact the Title IX coordinator. Another Campus Climate Survey is currently underway.

Irland explained that her goal as a Title IX ambassador is to be accessible and visible to  students and employees. Irland’s focus is on prevention and education, like her most recent campaign, #LOVEBETTER. 

#LOVEBETTER was a tabling event at the Angell College Center that educated students on what unhealthy habits are in relationships and how to change them to a healthier characteristic. 

With Title IX, not everything is covered or talked about with the same severity. Continued and unchecked behavior leads to severe and permanent actions, which is why it’s important to address the common things in our society that are unhealthy or abnormal. 

Irland wants students to know that when speaking to Title IX about their experiences, they will continue to be the decision maker through the entire process. Students have the choice on which report to file, either formal or informal. They will have supportive resources, such as the Academic Advising Office and the Student Health and Counseling Center, no matter their choice. 

The support services can be tailored to students as individuals, whether it’s switching a class because of a reported claim or scheduling therapy throughout and after the reporting process.

“A lot of people think that they always have to formally report in order to be OK or resolve the problem, but there’s many ways to resolve or investigate the wrongful behavior,” Irland said. “Everyone has a choice as to what helps them feel comfortable.”

Irland previously worked as a diversity officer at North Country Community College. She responded to all conduct violations, not just related to Title IX. She believes her past work experience helps her position at SUNY Plattsburgh greatly. 

A work-study position at Title IX is open for students.

The question of whether Title IX is an appropriate place for a student to work is important and valid to Irland. She said any student working for Title IX went through a tight-knit hiring process and background check. The goal is for students to be able to speak closely and forward campaigns to their peers. 

“We want them to come up with memorable hashtags and ways to guarantee student visibility,” Irland said.

Irland noted that students will never see any private or confidential information. She said she eventually wants to expand her team to beyond students. If anyone affiliated with Title IX is accused of wrongful behavior, they will be investigated just like everyone else. 

“Anyone can be a harasser or recipient,” Ireland said. “It’s not limited to one gender identity or title.”

Irland said the Title IX Office needs visibility and is open to working with different student organizations, even ones with a bad reputation. 

“Any student organization who has a reputation of bad behavior, if they are willing to change things around and show their growth, it has to be consistent to be taken seriously,” Irland said.

With a physical Title IX office and a permanent coordinator, there are more opportunities for change in the campus community. 

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