Guest Speaker educates students on Title IX

As individuals on college campuses around the country deal with the persistent issue of sexual assault, the Geneseo Women’s Action Coalition hosted “Know Your Rights: Know Title IX”—their last event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month—on Monday April 25.

Know Your IX—or KYIX—began in 2009 and is a “survivor and youth-led organization that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.” Guest speaker activist and development coordinator for KYIX Marybeth Seitz-Brown held an insightful lecture covering a myriad of topics revolving around Title IX and how important it is to be educated on your rights as an individual, student and survivor.

Seitz-Brown was an organizer of the No Red Tape campaign at Columbia University, where she studied linguistics. Title IX is a cause that is near and dear to her—a cause in which she firmly believes.

After a brief introduction from WAC president junior Jes Heppler, Seitz-Brown began explaining what Title IX is and how it relates to gender violence. Gender violence includes rape, sexual assault or harassment, intimate partner, domestic and dating violence, stalking and online harassment. Seitz-Brown enlightened the audience, explaining that gender-based violence “maintain[s] structural and cultural gender inequities.”

The statistics for gender violence among college students is staggering. According to the data in Seitz-Brown’s presentation, one in five women, one in 16 men and one in four transgender persons experience gender violence on campuses across the United States. For women of color, these statistics are even higher.

Seitz-Brown said, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education.” Essentially, because of Title IX every student—of any gender and race—has the right to a fair, safe education.

People often question why schools are required to get involved in instances of sexual assault. Many believe that the police should handle these situations. Seitz-Brown addressed this argument by explaining that gender violence doesn’t just have bodily effects—it also affects “your education, your emotional health, your psychological health, your financial health and it has these stigmatic community harms, as well.”

Beyond the fact that schools are required to handle sexual assault cases that affect students, there are a variety of other reasons for this protocol. According to Seitz-Brown, “colleges and universities can usually respond more quickly to a lot of things that are specific to being a student and living on a college campus.” These responses can include changing a victim’s classes if they have the same class as his or her offender, changing a victim’s housing or dorm if he or she lives in the same building as their offender, extending a victim’s deadlines for schoolwork and the list goes on.

Furthermore, it’s dangerous for certain communities—such as people of color, undocumented people, transgender people and Muslims—to approach the police after suffering sexual assault. Seitz-Brown noted, “All of the[se] communities are targeted by the police and disproportionately experience violence from the police.” Therefore, in many cases the school is the only safe option for a victim to turn to.

Seitz-Brown closed her talk with suggestions on ways to enact change at your own university and how to make people—particularly college students—more aware of their Title IX rights. Different ways for students to get involved include filing complaints—which is something Seitz-Brown did at Columbia—targeting decision-makers, getting to know media reporters so they can cover your actions, connecting with people online in places like Facebook groups and storytelling. Sharing your story—whether it be through speak outs or anonymously online—is a way to generate conversation and awareness around an important topic.

I’m disappointed by how unaware I was about Title IX before attending this lecture. Title IX should be something that students learn about in-depth at college orientations, and I hope that we see this change in the near future. Geneseo is lucky to have organizations like WAC to bring attention to such critical topics that are especially relevant for college students today.