Title IX Advisory Group Reports

2020 Advisory Group Report to the Community

December 2020 

Introduction 

The Title IX Advisory Group exists to facilitate communication and to gather community feedback with regard to Title IX education, policies, procedures, and implementation. The 2020-21 Title IX Advisory Group is composed of eight St. Olaf community members, including students, faculty, and staff. 

The Advisory Group was originally formed in response to the substantial changes in Title IX policy and procedure in July of 2016 at the recommendation of the Title IX Working Group. The group continues to be an important part of the St. Olaf Title IX process, given new regulations from the U.S. Department of Education that necessitated changes in campus policy and procedures. Further, the pandemic of 2020 has complicated the Title IX environment this year. 

This report summarizes three feedback efforts undertaken in 2020

  1. The Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey, conducted February 2020 
  2. Community survey about the August 14, 2020 changes to policy and procedure in response to Department of Education regulations updated May 6, 2020
  3. Barriers to Reporting confidential survey conducted in November 2020 

Each of these three is summarized in a section of the report below. 

Section 1: HEDS Survey 

The Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey was administered to St. Olaf students in February 2020. Key findings, complete results, and next steps can be found on the Title IX web site. While the HEDS survey was not conducted at the behest of the Title IX Advisory Group, we nonetheless reviewed the findings to have a snapshot of data that preceded the Department of Education regulation changes and to help determine priorities for 2021. 

Some findings we found particularly salient were:

  1. “Only 46% of St. Olaf respondents thought that campus officials handle incidents in a fair and responsible manner (up from 44% in 2017), compared to 53% of students from other small institutions.”
  2. “The piece of information students feel the least educated on is procedures for investigating sexual assault, with only 53% of students reporting they were sure they had been educated on it. This number is still greater than it was in 2017 (45%) and than it is at other small institutions (48%).”
  3. “Most survey respondents who reported having been sexually assaulted, whether at St. Olaf or the other small institutions, chose not to use their college’s procedures to file a formal report. Only 25% of the students who responded to this question at St. Olaf (up from 17% in 2017) and only 16% of responding students at other institutions indicated that they had used their school’s formal reporting process.” 
  4. “Students are more satisfied with the college’s reporting process than in 2017. 75% of the St. Olaf students who filed a formal report with the college said they were satisfied with the college’s process, which is a sizable increase from 31% in 2017. Other small schools in 2020 reported 43% of students being satisfied with their colleges’ reporting processes.”

There is room for improvement — most notably in the areas of student education on how to use the reporting process and in our goal to build rapport between the administration and students. These should be foundational points around which we construct our action plan for the coming year. 

Section 2: Community Response to Campus Communication about Department of Education mandated policy changes 

On May 6, 2020, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released new regulations regarding the Title IX process on college campuses. Colleges and universities were tasked with implementing these regulations by August 14, 2020. The Title IX team created a new process in order to comply with updated regulations. 

In order to aid in the understanding of the new system, the Title IX team created two basic flow charts and a FAQ page that were distributed by Title IX Coordinator Kari Hohn via email to all students, staff and faculty on June 29, 2020. In addition to these documents there is a 35 minute informational video and formal description of all regulations on the Title IX web page. The Title IX advisory group surveyed students, faculty and staff to provide feedback on the new process and regulations. 

While summer response rate was low, the survey indicated that: 

  1. The process seems to be generally understood by respondents.
  2. There were clarifications needed involving both the definition of harassment and the advisor role in the hearing claim process. 

Section 3: Barriers to Reporting Survey, November 2020 

Title IX intakes are reported by Title IX coordinator Kari Hohn to have been dramatically lower in the fall semester of 2020, as compared to recent semesters. A similar pattern was reported at our peer institutions. The Title IX Advisory Group was eager to better

understand barriers to reporting. We sent out an anonymous survey to students, faculty, and staff on behalf of the Title IX Advisory Committee that inquired about barriers to reporting to Title IX. 

The single open-ended question was, Please share any aspects of St. Olaf’s Title IX policies or procedures, or any other factors, that may have prevented you from reporting sexual misconduct or would make you reluctant to report sexual misconduct in the future. Your answer will only be shared with confidential resources on the Title IX Advisory Group. If you would like us to follow up with you, please add your email to the end of your comments.” 

We received a total of 80 responses. Responses were reviewed and compiled by the confidential resource members of the committee.

  1. 46 responses that indicated that they either had barriers or could foresee barriers if they were to report an incident of sexual harassment
    • 18.75% of respondents reported fear as a barrier, including fear of retaliation (from the perpetrator), fear of racial bias being a factor in their case, fear of being blamed, and a fear of sanctions that could be imposed. Of those who mentioned fear of sanctions, two responses were about alcohol, being reluctant to report and hearing that life is “made difficult” for folks if they report alcohol involvement even though there’s not supposed to be a sanction for that. Two were COVID related, one of which said they later realized they wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for a community standards violation but didn’t know that at the time.
    • 16.25% indicated that a barrier to their reporting came from hearing about a negative experience their close friend had with Title IX.
    • Other barriers to reporting mentioned included concerns about confidentiality, the process seeming daunting or confusing, not being comfortable talking with faculty or staff members to report, having a previous experience with Title IX reporting that was negative, or reporting perceived as “too much” of a response.
  2. 27.5% (22) of our respondents reported having no barriers to reporting to Title IX.
  3. 12 responses (15%) were not relevant to the question asked.

Goals for 2021 

The Title IX Advisory Group’s spring 2021 goals fall into two primary categories: gathering feedback and engaging the campus community. We will gather feedback from individuals who have reported to or gone through the Title IX process. As of the

writing of this report that number was considered too low to comfortably seek feedback, so we plan to reach out in the second semester. We will also engage the broader campus community with the entirety of Title IX at St. Olaf. Current efforts are underway to create informal learning opportunities for students (such as tabling and posters), to educate students on how to assist a friend who has experienced a Title IX incident, and to clarify the role of the Title IX coordinator for staff and faculty needing to report an incident. 

We look forward to an ongoing partnership with the Title IX team to use the Advisory Group’s efforts and report to support Title IX community education, prevention, response, and ongoing feedback.