Title IX brings active bystander awareness

Now that changes in Title IX are being implemented, the push to exercise student rights has never been stronger.

As sexual assault issues come to the forefront, it is the campus’ responsibility to learn to be active bystanders.

Senior Jennifer Towne said she thinks active bystander training will bring much needed awareness to students. Title IX coordinator Tammy Jacques said the training will begin in January.

“This will help balance and control environments that have the potential to be dangerous but otherwise allow everyone to have a good time,” she said.

The key to campus success lies in the hands of students, said Andrea Hunt, assistant professor of sociology and member of the Title IX Advisory Board.

“I like to think about it as, ‘What is our culture here?’” she said. “What does it mean to be a Lion? What does it mean to be a leader on campus? That means that we take the lead. We don’t just sit back and see our classmates hurt. As a Lion, we’re a leader.”

As of May 2014, there were 55 higher education institutes under investigation for possibly violating Title IX, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

UNA is currently not under investigation, Jacques said.

The campus is stepping up and being a leader in this fight by implementing policies that shine a spotlight on Title IX, Hunt said.

“We used to always think about Title IX in terms of sports,” she said. “But in the wake of all these incidences happening on different college campuses, this isn’t just something that UNA is focusing on. It’s campuses around the nation. Sexual assault has kind of been encompassed in Title IX.”

Title IX promotes having a campus environment free of harassment and discrimination.

“If you think about the age of students and so many people being together, these things are going to happen,” Hunt said. “I would love to say they would never happen and we have a culture and environment where these things don’t happen, but these things do happen on college campuses. So we have to be very proactive about it instead of reactive.”

As SGA Vice President of Senate and student representative on the Title IX Advisory Board, one of Nick Lang’s goals is increasing safety and awareness on campus.

“While we’re in college, it’s important that students realize there are things we can do and prepare ourselves for,” he said. “I feel like Title IX is one of those things where people will hear about it, but they don’t necessarily know exactly what it means.”

If the campus is proactive, we may start to see a decrease in cases that fall under Title IX, Hunt said.

“We know from other studies that there are a lot more incidences that happen than are reported,” she said. “If we really focus on education and prevention, then we’re going to see these incidences decrease. If we focus on prevention and especially bystander intervention type programs then we can really help minimize these incidences and we can really create a culture change.”

According to the Green Dot bystander training, there are three ways to be an active bystander, Hunt said. A person can direct, distract or delegate.

“A lot of times when people don’t do anything it is because we don’t know what to do. In general when we’re thinking about how to be an active bystander, the first option we have is directing.

“You can also distract. If you’re somewhere and you see something happening, you kind of distract the situation and you let that person get out of that situation. Start talking to the person and say, ‘Hey did you see “The Walking Dead” last night?’ You’re really diffusing the situation through some type of distraction.

“The last one is to delegate. If something happens you should decide who is the person you would tell this to. You don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way but you know who you can go to. We don’t know who we can go to make sure that there is attention put on this and it is stopped.”

Hunt said she sees a bright future for the campus.

“I love UNA and I see this as my community and my home,” she said. “I want students to be at a place where they can really enjoy the college experience and not have to worry about being unsafe. I think if we can get key people — getting a lot of student buy-in — we can really see a culture change on campus where we empower each other.”