By Emma Vallelunga
SUNY Plattsburgh’s Title IX Office wants to hear from you. They see you, you matter and they are here because of you. This semester, the Title IX office is planning to increase collaboration between campus departments and expand their educational outreach with two new initiatives.
The new regulations established by the Title IX organization went into effect Aug. 14. Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise Boire said three key changes to their sexual and interpersonal violence policy include establishing a stand-alone policy, maintaining a 60-day timeline for responding to reports and maintaining the standard of preponderance.
The stand-alone policy allows the Title IX Office to respond and investigate any reports of sexual or interpersonal violence both on- and off-campus.
“We want to be able to act no matter where the incident occurs,” Blaise Boire said.
The office also decided not to increase the timeline of responding to reports from 60 to 90 days like the national organization recommended.
“From a trauma-informed perspective, the sooner that you can give all parties involved a resolution, the better,” Blaise Boire said. “We are always trying to have a resolution before 60 days, so we don’t want people to worry that we’re going to extend these processes.”
And despite the option to increase the burden of proof from more likely than not to clear and convincing, the Title IX office will continue to maintain their standard of preponderance of evidence.
“[It] brings us into a situation, from my perspective, where we’re starting to require evidence at the level of a courtroom, and we aren’t courtrooms,” Blaise Boire said. “The consequences and the sanctions are much different, so to raise that level of burden of proof doesn’t seem to meet the standards of the system that we’re functioning in or the consequences.”
Blaise Boire said some students, faculty and staff don’t understand the roles that Title IX plays on campus, so in addition to these regulations, the office is implementing two new education and outreach programs to increase communication and awareness.
“It takes more than one office to be responding or working on prevention in regards to sexual and interpersonal violence,” Blaise Boire said. “Our goal as a team and as a campus is to change the culture. You need all hands on deck.”
Violence Prevention Education and Outreach Coordinator Zyaijah Nadler is launching a new liaison program through the Title IX Office. Individuals within different departments on campus would be trained on the Title IX office’s policies, procedures and expectations and be identified as trusted resources for students.
“Students can see all these individuals who are involved with [the Title IX office] and really just build the trust that people with our office and the things that we do,” Nadler said.
The second program is a type of peer education program called PEDAL, which stands for Prevent, Engage, Dismantle, Awareness and Legacy. A similar peer education program at SUNY Plattsburgh involved students who were trained to provide workshops and educational opportunities with other students, but it’s now getting a rebranding with Nadler at the helm.
“Peers will engage more with peers,” Blaise Boire said. “This is a program that we’ve had, but what Zyaijah’s going to be doing now is revamping it.”
Nadler said the program’s ultimate goal is to dismantle the culture of violence, even though it’s not something that can be done overnight.
“A lot of times, people think that we can just eradicate it on campus, but it’s just so ingrained in society and everything we see that it’s beyond campus,” Nadler said.
Blaise Boire also said new initiatives like the liaison program help the Title IX Office understand how the campus community changes semester to semester.
“It’s a way to also know what the climate is like,” she said. “For us, as professionals in these jobs, we’re here for the long term, but students cycle in and out. This gives us a chance to really connect with people who are on the ground and even more closely with students, faculty and staff.”
The Title IX Office held two virtual resource panels Wednesday and yesterday in order to give students, faculty and staff access to campus community resources. Nadler said she’s hopeful the office will continue to advocate for students despite the need for more virtual and remote methods due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said more than 400 students virtually attended the office’s mandatory training session for first-year and transfer students at the beginning of the semester.
“We’re always doing education, outreach and awareness,” Nadler said. “Many of them probably weren’t that happy to be there, but that’s still a large number of students who virtually were still with us, showed up and understood that this conversation was for them.”