Title IX: Student’s guide to dealing with sexual misconduct

Many Keene State College students admitted to knowing what Title IX is, but don’t know how it could help them if they were faced with a situation involving sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape while at KSC.

According to Titleix.info, many people believe Title IX only applies to women’s sports at educational institutions receiving federal funding, however, that is only one of the 10 areas this law covers.

Pedroza Gonzalez, a women and gender studies professor at KSC, added, “Traditional association with Title Nine is the title that provided the right to girls to have the same amount of sport teams as boys.”

She continued, “But it’s more than that. It’s [also] the right to ask to have ownership for our bodies — birth control, abortion and the origin of connecting that with assault issues — that all means I can say no to behaviors that aren’t comfortable for me.”

She added, “After four decades [the law] has evolved because society changes, culture changes and American culture is changing all the time and evolving.”


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Title IX as a whole deals with access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology at many colleges and universities in the U.S., according to Titleix.info.

Although all areas covered are of importance to students, recent events at KSC have stressed the importance of knowing this law in relation to sexual misconduct.

According to Knowyourix.org, “Under United States federal law, most notably Title IX and the Clery Act, students are guaranteed the right to education free from sexual violence and harassment.”

The website continued to state, “Sexual harassment in education includes any unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that significantly interferes with a student’s access to educational opportunities. The Supreme Court has confirmed that schools have an obligation under Title Nine to prevent and address harassment against students, regardless of whether the harassment is perpetrated by peers, teachers or other school officials.”

Eight in 10 students experience some form of harassment during their school years and more than 25 percent of them experience it often, according to the website.

Kemal Atkins, the vice president for student affairs, said, “The policy itself is large, but the conversation right now is around sexual misconduct.”

“Title Nine requires that colleges and universities [with federal funding]  provide prevention information; have a coordinator who helps to provide information about resources for victims; trains students, faculty and staff on what the requirements are related to it; [make sure] students know to whom to go to report it . . . And we have a process to investigate . . . cases of sexual assault or sexual misconduct that fall under the realm of Title Nine,” he explained.


Atkins said he is aware some students are unfamiliar with Title IX, and is working towards making sure more students become informed.

He explained, “We know we can talk with some students who say ‘I’m familiar [with Title IX] and I’ve heard of it’ but then there are others who haven’t, who may say ‘What is this Title Nine thing that we’re talking about?’”

Atkins said his office is constantly reviewing communication plans to ensure they can reach as many students as possible.

He also said students should take it upon themselves to be aware of  Title IX and know how it can help them if they need it.

He explained, “It’s the awareness; it’s everyone’s role in it. Often times the victims are women, so it’s also wrapped into the whole violence against women legislation and prevention efforts, but males can be victims as well. None of us are immune to being victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.“

Atkins said on the KSC campus there are multiple programs to raise awareness about the seriousness  of these situations and to inform students and the KSC community.

“We have a number of programs that we offer on campus that we offer through our counseling center and through our Mentors of Violence Prevention. We have sessions during new student orientation and this year during our admitted student days, and then as part of our code of conduct we have policies against sexual misconduct,” he explained.

“We also have a process that we follow to identify when those incidents may occur or are alleged to have occurred, and individuals who are trained to follow up on those things,” Atkins said.

Atkins stressed that students should be cautious of their relationships with others.

He said, “Students should pay attention to the relationships they have with one another and ensure that they are respectful relationships.”

He also said students should be aware of the steps and procedures to take if they or a friend are in a situation where they need help regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

“Students need to know that there are people on campus that they can go to report whether they have been victims or whether they know of someone who might have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual misconduct,” he said.


Gonzalez commented on the fact that problems regarding sexual assault and misconduct are emotional injuries that are not as easy to point out as physical injuries.

She explained, “Sexual assault is an issue that takes a little time to say ‘Is this really happening? Maybe I am misunderstanding,’ until some moment you realize ‘This is definitely not ok.’”

If a student or a friend experiences a situation involving sexual assault or sexual harassment, Atkins said first they should make sure to go to someone they trust to report what they’ve experienced.

Anne Huot, president of KSC, also explained the process.

“You make a complaint, you sit with an intake officer who would ask for details and record it and they would share that back with you to make sure your concern was accurately captured and then it would trigger an investigation,” she said.

She explained that there would then be discussions with the accused person, witness interviews and a report would be generated  depending on results of investigation. Then sanction applied if appropriate.

The Knowyourix.com website also gave tips on what to do if students are in a situation regarding sexual misconduct.

The website advised, “Document everything. Write down what happened, including the date, time and any witnesses. Take screenshots if it happened online and save texts and emails. Keep and record any evidence — even if you aren’t sure you want to report what happened, this way you will have documentation if you do choose to talk to your school or the police.”

As of now, the part time Title IX coordinator at KSC is Dottie Morris, but students are also advised to talk to someone at the counseling center or a faculty or staff member they feel comfortable talking to.

Atkins further explained, “[The student] can also determine whether they want to file criminal charges or to what extent they want the situation prosecuted, but regardless of that it’s important they get help, and we can provide that help through counseling centers and other positions . . . To help them make the best decision for them.”

Atkins emphasized it is important for everyone at KSC to be accountable for their actions and let others know that that type of behavior isn’t accepted or tolerated.

He continued, “No matter who they may be having this type of issue with and their role or status, there are individuals on this campus, in the Dean of Students office, or Title IX Coordinator Dottie Morris, or intake officers, who are in positions to ensure violations of this sort are handled in a responsible and appropriate manner.”


Huot explained that every federal funded institution is required to have a Title IX coordinator and Dotty Morris, the chief diversity officer, has held this position at KSC up until now.

Now, Huot explained, they are making it a full time position and hiring someone into it.

The Title IX coordinator is responsible for coordinating the school’s compliance with Title IX and oversees all complaints of sexual discrimination and misconduct.

She also explained that although there is one Title IX coordinator, there are also Title IX intake officers on various parts of the campus who can help them get the help they need.

Atkins was the Title IX coordinator at Delaware State University and established the Title IX office at the university before coming to KSC.

In regards to how well KSC is staying on track with the law, Atkins said, “There is still a lot that we can do, but there is a lot that most colleges and universities still can do because [the law has] been evolving over the last several years.”

According to TitleIX.info Title IX has been subject to more than 20 proposed amendments since it was passed, which makes it a “living, breathing law.”

Atkins added, “We have most of what we need in place, of course we can always do more and we have plans in place to do that  but have areas we could strengthen as well.”

KSC has a policy about sexual misconduct, which can be found in the student handbook.

Professor Gonzalez said having this policy does not stop sexual misconduct from happening, but it is good for students to have access to that information. However, Gonzalez explained the changes she plans on making.  She said, “I confess that we don’t talk about [sexual assault or the school policy], we can’t teach about it. In fact I’m promoting that faculty should insert some type of statement in our syllabus. I can’t obligate anyone else to do it, but I will do it.”

She continued, “In my syllabus I put ‘If you need help with writing, go to the writing center; if you need help with disabilities, go to the disability and counseling center.’ I want to add ‘Please know that sexual assault is not tolerated at Keene State College, if you are experiencing these kinds of situations this is the office you can go.’”

Gonzalaz also commented on other changes she hopes the school makes.

“Many things I need to find at Keene State [College] I can’t find on the website, so this needs to be more clear and let’s use this opportunity to talk about this and fix it,” she said.

Huot agreed that the information needs to be more clear on the KSC website. “[The] information is publicly available, it needs to be more obvious and more toward the front of the website,” she said.

She said that they have also moved things around in the student handbook, and that  training at orientation was enhanced to include how to report sexual harassment or misconduct and who to report to.

Atkins added, “We have policies, we have programs, procedures, and personnel in place and we [need to] make sure students and others are aware of what [they are] and who they are.”

Atkins emphasized, “We care. There are individuals on this campus who care, there is a community of caring individuals, work with us in order to find a solution.”

Huot explained, “It’s cultural behavioral expectations of each other, and that I think applies to the administration, our faculty, our staff and our students. What are our behavioral expectations of each other with respect to how we treat each other and how we make sure the environment that our students live, learn and compete in is respectful and supportive, which you have the right to expect from us. The same holds true for our work environment — how do we hold each other accountable to our obligation to ensure that that environment exists?” Huot asked.

Atkins said if a student finds themselves or a friend  victim to sexual assault or harassment to make sure the school is aware of the situation. ”Please let us know, please report it and we will follow our policies and procedures to make sure they are safe and make sure the necessary and appropriate steps are taken to resolve the situation,” he said. Students should contact one of the nine Intake Officers at KSC, the Title IX coordinator and visit http://www.keene.edu/administration/policy/detail/discrimination/#contacts_for_assistance_and_information for more information. 

Taylor Thomas can be contacted at tthomas@kscequinox.com

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