Gender discrimination training to become mandatory for new students this fall

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Presentation also stresses awareness of behavioral intervention and student conduct responsibilities

By: Kyle R. Cotton

kcotton11@student.alamo.edu

Newly enrolled students who do not complete the Title 9 training by the time they register for spring will have a registration hold, Patty Parma, district director of student success, said during a presentation to faculty Aug. 18 in Oppenheimer Learning Center.

Enacted in 1972 by Congress, the Title 9 law seeks to abolish gender discrimination in sports and evolved to include educational institutions as a whole. As written, it only requires educational institutes to make such training available to students, which is at odds with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights, which wants to make it mandatory.

The Title 9 training for students will be enforced through a registration hold at the end of the semester for those who haven’t gone through the HAVEN Title 9 training program on ACES.

The district’s vice presidents of success are expected to approve the hold and how to make students aware of it at an Aug. 31 meeting, where Parma and the district’s Title 9 board will present their recommendations.

Parma said she would prefer new students go through HAVEN as part of SDEV 0171, Strategies for Success, or another mandatory course.

Parma said new students have enough on their plates during orientation and the enrollment process. She recommended waiting a couple of weeks after students establish their routine.

“You can introduce a student to HAVEN during NSO (new student orientation), but for HAVEN that is 45 minutes long. NSO is not the place to do that,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of Title 9 awareness, noting facts such as one in five women will experience sexual assault in college; the first three weeks of the semester are the most vulnerable for students and 13 percent of college women report being stalked each year.

Parma said this has a huge impact on the student’s ability to learn, and it is a big reason to raise Title 9 awareness.

She also noted fewer than five percent of student victims nationally report, “this is a number the department of education is watching, and they already told all of us if that number doesn’t increase significantly they are going to come and investigate us.”

She said this was because the department of education wants to change the culture so victims of gender-based discrimination under Title 9 aren’t afraid to report.

“They expect it to go way up and then to start dropping again, and if it’s not dropping they (the Department of Education) will be back again, because then our prevention efforts should have been kicking in,” Parma said.

She said Alamo Colleges’ policy requires faculty who have witnessed any gender-based discrimination to report it to a counselor within 24 hours or else risk the putting the district in violation of federal law under the Clery Act, an extension of Title 9. This includes verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment; sexual assault/rape; dating violence; domestic violence; stalking (gender-based); bullying (gender-based); and retaliation.

Other topics in the presentation included Strategies of Behavioral Intervention and conduct versus course management.

The SOBI part of the presentation stressed the importance of staying engaged with students and being wary of any change in the student’s behavior that might be concerning, such as signs of harassment, intimidation, extreme anxiety, depression, erratic behavior and disconnect from reality.

SOBI grew out of such incidents as the Virginia Tech Shooting in 2007 where there were signs where people could have intervened.

“SOBI is not a punishment,” said Counselor Maria Gomez. “It’s not a punitive issue, it’s a chance for students to get help and it’s a chance for the faculty to get help so there is a routine that people can follow and be able to do things before they escalate into situations we can’t handle.”

In the conduct versus course management section Parma said course management is the responsibility of the instructor while conduct management is the responsibility of the student.

Parma highlighted one of the main tools for course management for instructors was to use the syllabus to help clearly establish expectations.

“I used to hear from students that the instructor wants this but it’s not in the syllabus, or the instructor is three quarters in and enforcing a rule that’s not in the syllabus,” Parma said. “As a counselor I used to help students determine whether or not they wanted to file a grievance and you stay very neutral.

“The syllabus is the instructor’s best friend, but also the student’s best friend, because the student clearly understands expectations,” Parma said.

Managing conduct is tricky for students, since most don’t even know the student conduct handbook exists, Gomez said.

“You have to make sure students know exactly what you want and in terms of management you have to make sure manners are still part of that,” Gomez said.

The instructor needs to clearly establish in the syllabus possible distractions such as caps and cell phones.

“The age of technology has made this difficult,” Gomez said. “As much as technology has been a big assistance, it’s also been a big drawback. We can think about students in the past who didn’t have phones to wait to go out and have that conversation.

“Now it’s constant and that’s where boundaries need to be set so students understand the normal good manners of showing respect to your classmates, your instructor and just having the respect to wait until class is over,” Gomez said.

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