Administrative program review to strengthen Title IX system

Olivia Madera, Reporter

The Office of Educational Effectiveness and the division of Student Affairs conducted a Title IX administrative program review this past week. A faculty and staff session was held on Thursday, Feb. 2 from 3:00-3:45 p.m. while the student session was held on Friday, Feb. 3 at the same time. 

Deputy Title IX Coordinator Chris Paul said in an email interview that Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, is purely for equity within sexual harassment against gender and allows college institutions to protect individuals. Paul said that Title IX is important to California Lutheran University’s community so everyone can have access to an educational environment regardless of their sex.

An email to the Cal Lutheran community said that the program review is a continuous improvement cycle that will enhance the quality, currency and effectiveness of the Title IX program to improve students’ experience at Cal Lutheran.

Senior Associate Provost for Educational Effectiveness Taiwo Ande said that the periodic review is checking back to make sure that the policies and rules that are in place are being followed. Ande said that it is not because the Title IX system is failing, but instead Cal Lutheran wants to make sure that the system does not break down in the future, no issues are being overlooked and to see how Cal Lutheran can do better.

“It is very critical. There are so many individuals in the community that truly need to be protected because they are minorities or they are exposed to the potential by being marginalized by the result of their gender or sexual orientation,” Ande said.

Ande said there has to be a program that will take care of these groups, and some less protected groups feel that the system isn’t protecting them enough. 

“Their voices are not always heard, so what Title IX does is actually bring them up to know that they are truly being protected,” Ande said. 

Paul said, since Title IX covers all of the Cal Lutheran community, the mission is to make sure that students have input and can provide suggestions to better the process. However, Paul said that some pieces cannot be changed due to compliance with federal law and there is no yearly mandate for a review. Paul also said that when the federal government releases new regulations, Cal Lutheran must augment its policy to comply with new regulations and California state law.

“We are hoping this review will reveal ways we can improve upon our strong commitment to equity,” Paul said, “​​There are many perspectives on Title IX…it is important to hear from everyone.”

Ande said that he wants these groups to know that they aren’t doing this alone and that Cal Lutheran is making sure that they can live their life regularly like every other person. 

“That’s what Title IX does, it actually creates a sort of comfort zone that these types of individuals can truly run into and seek solace,” Ande said.

Ande said the review sessions and program consisted of an external reviewer who interviewed Paul, the agitator of the Title IX cases, the Dean of the students, the vice president of Student Affairs, the provost, cabinet members and the president. Student peer groups, faculty and other departments on campus will also be interviewed according to Ande.

He said the external reviewer had two full-packed days to meet and interview everyone, including one-on-one sessions that were offered to students and staff. After, Ande said the report will be reviewed against the external reviewer’s recommendations, weaknesses in the program, Cal Lutheran’s efforts to provide education and training opportunities for everyone and Cal Lutheran’s strengths. Once the review team, consisting of administrators and staff, is done Ande said they will share the report and take the recommendations to the president. 

Elizabeth Trayner, an external title IX reviewer and vice president for Institutional Equity at Seattle University, was also present for both sessions.  

“If we don’t have equity on the basics of sex then we don’t have equity. On the campuses I’ve worked on we have always made sure that it is explicit, that it does protect people of all gender identities and expressions,” Trayner said. 

Trayner said the federal government has gone back and forth on if ‘sex’ is inclusive of gender identity and expression for Title IX. Under the Obama administration, Trayner said that they deemed the word as expansive and protective, while the Trump administration codified it as a law that it is not.

“In 2020, we had 2,083 pages worth of new regulations. All of those changes got codified with the force and effect of law whereas previously everything was kind of done as Dear Colleague letters and executive orders which are all sub-regulatory,” Trayner said. 

As institutions of higher regulations, Trayner said that they are still going to follow those but it doesn’t have the force and effect of law because they didn’t go through the rule-making process. Trayner said the law is intended to make sure that we are paying attention to due process rights and that we are treating all people who are participating in the Title IX process equitably. 

“So we need to make sure that we are balancing that,” Trayner said. 

Trayner said that though her reports and recommendations will be brought to Cal Lutheran’s attention, they could shift quickly even though the rule-making process is underway. Trayner said  the 2023 regulations along with updates to Title IX won’t be available till May and might not be implemented till the fall of 2023

“My recommendation would probably be that they hold off on making those updates until the fall,” said Trayner. “It’s also not good to be making changes to policy midstream.”

Trayner also said that the Title IX process needs to be transparent so others understand what the process is, but also private so there is no sharing of personal or specific information of individuals. Since faculty, staff and students can be impacted directly and indirectly, Trayner said that they all have a very important voice in the Title IX process. She said faculty could be supporting people going through the process, serving as an investigator or being an advisor. 

“Students are perceived to be the primary individuals involved in Title IX cases, but that’s not always the case. The first Title IX lawsuit was actually faculty looking at inequities within the faculty ranks,” Trayner said. 

Supportive measures, Trayner said, that are put in place before there is a finding of responsibility are key to having a good Title IX program and helping students to continue with their educational experience. Trayner said that having an external reviewer is a fresh perspective and she hopes that the review sessions will bring great amounts of student and faculty perspectives.

 “I’m hoping we can make some recommendations that would improve the process of all individuals including survivors,” Trayner said.