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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton responds to Title IX changes on harassment

<eople hear the phrase “Title IX,” they think of women’s right to participate in sports, not a policy against sexual harassment. Yet it’s the restrictions that Title IX places on sexual harassment – an “umbrella term” used to refer to all forms of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault – that have recently been altered. This past weekend, the Office of Civil Rights released a “Dear Colleague” letter, a document intended to provide guidance for schools, colleges, and universities to better understand their responsibilities regarding sexual harassment and assault.

Title IX is part of the 1972 Education Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and requires all federally funded institutions to provide equal opportunities for both men and women. However, the original wording is very vague and, as a result, colleges and universities are often forced to interpret the provisions, rather than follow a single, uniform policy regarding sexual harassment. This discrepancy causes issues, especially because sexual misconduct is such a sensitive issue.

The new 18-page letter was prompted by student complaints at several universities, causing a review of policies surrounding the issue. The letter aims to clarify the confusion, specifically that surrounding prevention and treatment of sexual violence and harassment. In light of the “Dear Colleague” letter, nearly every federally funded school is now reviewing its policy on sexual harassment and/or assault, including Carleton.

“Carleton is doing a great job in terms of the new letter,” says Sara Cantor, Carleton’s Educational Associate for Sexual Misconduct. Cantor, who graduated this past fall, has spent countless hours working to implement the new process. The policy was redesigned last year after students voiced concern over the old complaint process. As a result, Carleton is uniquely situated to respond to the letter, because the new policies already address many of the standards outlined in the letter. “Most of the things that the Dear Colleague Letter is doing now, we did last spring,” said Cantor.

For instance, an entire board of people, rather than a single individual, now make the decisions regarding responses to sexual misconduct. Also, the Community Concern Forum (CCF) was created for students to express concern about sexual misconduct going through the official complaint process. With this, someone from the Dean of Students’ Office will meet with the individual and discuss how to amend the situation. As a result, responses to sexual misconduct can be tailored to the needs of a specific individual. The CCF also functions as a preventative force. “It helps students who could use another conversation about what consent means, and what kind of behavior can be perceived as sexual misconduct,” Cantor said.

That way, if Deans receive multiple complaints about an individual, they can meet with that person in a non-confrontational manner to further educate the individual about his or her actions. “The complaint process isn’t for everyone,” said Cantor.

In addition, the Healthy Communities and Relationships (HCR) Initiative was also developed to promote student knowledge of sexual misconduct. “We need to be talking more about sexual misconduct in a way that encourages all students to be a part of it,” said Cantor. The HCR program has hosted dinners periodically throughout the year. At the last two, approximately 100 students turned up. Rather than focusing on unhealthy relationships, the HCR emphasizes healthy relationships and what people can do right.

Cantor notes that the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) also hosts many important programs to prevent sexual violence. She works closely with the GSC staff. “Carleton is doing a good job with the prevention aspect [associated with the new Title IX standards],” Cantor argues. There are also board meetings once a week in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the new program. Now that the letter has been released, the group plans to continue these meetings through the end of the 2010-2011 school year and beyond, if necessary.

“There are no hard and fast conclusions yet,” said Cantor. “Carleton students can rest assured that the board is working very hard to determine that they’re doing the best job possible. We’re really lucky that we had the review last year, because it means that we are already in a really good place to evaluate how we fit the [new] standards.”

For more information about Carleton’s sexual misconduct policy, please visit


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