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Laura Riehle-Merrill: New Title IX coordinator

<ll, Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston announced the appointment of Carleton’s new full-time Title IX Coordinator: Laura Riehle-Merrill. The appointment is the result of the college’s Title IX Search Advisory Committee, which was formed in 2016. Although the first search yielded three competitive finalists, the Committee decided that they were not the right fit for Carleton, leading to the need for another search. Riehle-Merrill is also the first full-time Title IX coordinator at Carleton, due in part to a 2015 effort in which Carleton students created a petition on requesting a full time coordinator, which garnered nearly 400 signatures.

Having been at Carleton for 12 years, Riehle-Merrill served in the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE), while also contributing as a sexual assault support advisor for those going through the formal complaint process.

“I heard from some of my current students at the time encouraging me to apply,” Riehle-Merrill said. “Through working really closely with students and hearing their lived experience my passion only grew. Last year I served on the Title IX Lead Team as Deputy for support. So when this opportunity came up, I decided to apply,” she said.

According to Riehle-Merrill, she has “over a decade worth of experience working closely with Carleton students, and so I think I’m really fortunate in that I’m starting this job with some trust already built up. It just makes it that much easier for students to have a main point of contact and have someone who’s accessible. I’ve set up weekly office hours and students have definitely utilized that.”
As the College’s first full-time Title IX Coordinator in over a year, Riehle-Merrill said that it’s beneficial “having somebody who’s responsive and available. I feel like my predecessors did a great job, and it was really hard to do that on top of an already full role.”
Discussing the recent national changes to Title IX implemented by Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, Riehle-Merrill said “I don’t know that any of the new guidance is going to impact what we do here at Carleton. I think a lot of folks don’t understand that so much of what we do is already codified through law, such as the Violence Against Women Act, the Cleary Act, and Minnesota laws on campus sexual violence. I think that’s really good. This new guidance hasn’t changed Title IX law.”

In addressing the Carleton campus climate regarding sexual assault, Riehle-Merrill acknowledges a need to work on both sexual assault response and prevention. Riehle-Merrill estimates that “roughly 90 percent of cases involve incapacitation, usually due to alcohol.” She called for the need for programs like Green Dot, which relies on everyone’s responsibility in sexual misconduct prevention and “doesn’t blame the victim but tries to really take a close look at what that relationship is and what that correlation is, so that Carleton can talk together about how to make our campus community safer and healthier for everyone.”

She expressed a concern that students were unaware of current sexual assault statistics on campus. According to Riehle-Merrill, the past three years resulted in 13 Title IX cases, and in nine of those, “the respondent was found in violation and had sanctions, and out of those nine, there were three expulsions and two suspensions.”

“I feel like most students don’t know that information, and that they would assume that our percentage is less than that. We’ve had multiple cases over the past three years that involved unwanted kissing. Kissing currently falls under our sexual assault policy. It’s important for students to know that there are different sanctions based on different types of sexual assaults,” she said.

As of Spring 2017, 231 students have completed the six-hour Green Dot training.
News Editors Ross Matican and Rachael Sutherland contributed to this story. 

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