Title IX In Sports

New coordinator aims to make a difference in equality

Keene State College’s new Title IX Discrimination and Harassment Coordinator, Jeffrey Maher has a great understanding of the role Title IX plays in sports. With over 20 years of experience in law enforcement working as a patrol officer investigator and as a prosecutor, Maher said he has worked closely with crimes of sexual misconduct.

As a heavily qualified new addition to KSC administration, Maher said his time here at Keene State has “been very enjoyable. Staff and faculty have been very welcoming.”

As Title IX Coordinator, Maher is responsible for overseeing and evaluating all things Title IX related, including reports of alleged discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct in addition to sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking concerns.

Title IX has a deeply rooted history in society that dates back to the early 1970’s and Maher elaborated on that history, explaining that the law “extended equity and civil rights protections in educational institutions.”

This 40-year-old law that stands strong today demands equality and appropriate behavior among students in higher education,

Photo Editor / Tim Smith

Photo Editor / Tim Smith

both male and female, and that colleges and universities make the proper accommodations to provide equal opportunities for both men and women. Interestingly enough, equality in athletics specifically was a main focus of Title IX at its origin and remains that way to this day.

“When Title IX first came out in the 1970’s a lot of the focus was on equality in sports,” Maher said.

He also stated the historical impact Title IX has had on the world of athletics.

“I would argue as a direct result of that, thirty years later, now we have professional female soccer teams winning the World Cup. You have female Olympians who are bringing home silver, gold and bronze medals. That, I believe can be directly traced back to this law that was passed in the 1970’s providing provisions,” Maher said.

Keene State Junior Field Hockey player Brittney Cardente recognizes the impact of Title IX and how it has affected her as a female collegiate athlete. “Years ago only males were allowed to play college sports,” Cardente said. “Nowadays females have the same right and it’s a pretty cool feeling being able to represent the sport you love for the college you chose whether it’s D1, D2 or D3.”

When it comes to the state of Title IX today and how students and faculty alike are educated in all facets of the law, Maher and other fellow faculty members touted Keene State’s efforts in doing so.

“I believe that Keene State specifically has a very impressive sexual violence prevention program,” Maher said. He continued, “The amount of information sharing between the college and those organizations (Keene Police, Campus Safety, etc.) is impressive and it’s critical in moving forward.”

Vice President of Student Affairs and Interim Athletic Director Kemal Atkins spoke in the same light, referring to the impressive efforts by student driven movements to bring about awareness and change in relation to Title IX misconduct.

“A lot of the awareness lately has actually come from students,” Atkins said. He continued, “We have our MVP program (Mentors in Violence Prevention). We have other programs like “Step Up” that help students become active bystanders.”

The amount of resources here on campus to help eradicate the issue of discriminatory practices and sexual misconduct is at a premium and continues to grow. One of the most powerful programs that exists here at KSC that educates students on being an active bystander and learning how to prevent sexual and discriminatory misconduct is “No Zebras.”

No Zebras is a program where students from KSC’s theatre department passionately and intensely simulate real life situations of sexual assault and relationship violence students may encounter in an environment of high education.

The students’ performances are gritty and surreal, educating their audience of in-coming Keene State students on how to handle those combustible situations.

“I think the focus of the college, and certainly my focus is going to be on pursuing prevention training efforts that help to change the culture,” Maher said. “And No Zebras is a perfect example of that.”

In the grand scope of the national media, especially in collegiate sports today, cases related to sexual assault, domestic violence and Title IX infringement are more visible than ever before.

Former University of Michigan defensive lineman and Seattle Seahawks rookie Frank Clark were recently one of many collegiate athletes to become involved in a domestic violence dispute where he allegedly caused his girlfriend physical harm. Because of his involvement with the incident, Clark’s position in the NFL Draft plummeted from where he was originally projected to be taken, leaving his reputation blemished as he enters his rookie campaign.

When asked if crimes of Title IX misconduct are a social trend or a result of media publicity, Kemal Atkins commented, “The issues are real,” Atkins said. “I think it’s more publicized because of the attention athletics gets. High profile athletes in high profile sports tend to get more attention than another student on campus.”

A crucial cog in this process here at Keene State is Chief Officer of Diversity and Multiculturalism Dottie Morris who will supervise and collaborate with Jeffrey Maher on all matters related to Title IX among other areas of focus.

“There are a lot of people in athletics as well as throughout the college who are looking to make this a rich learning environment for students,” Morris said.

She continued, “Part of that rich learning environment is when students can feel safe, and that we build up an understanding of expectation around behavior that helps create that safe rich environment.”

Maher explained that he wants to continue to create a safe environment here at Keene State College. “My goal in taking this position here at Keene State was to assist in changing the culture, away from one where sexual violence is permitted in any way shape or form.”

With the myriad of resources being implemented to protect the principles of Title IX here at KSC, we can rest assured that all of the appropriate steps are being taken by faculty and students alike to halt this unfortunate social trend.

Nick can be contacted at ntocco@kscequinox.com

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