Title IX committee talks University policy


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Shaun Johnson, Northwestern police commander, speaks at a Title IX forum in Annenberg Hall Thursday evening. Seven NU staff members answered questions submitted by students in an attempt to clarify confusion regarding Title IX and NU’s policies on sexual assault.

Ciara McCarthy, Managing Editor

Members of Northwestern’s Title IX Coordinating Committee answered students’ questions about the University’s policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault at a panel Thursday evening. 

The panel was students’ second attempt to seek clarity from NU officials regarding the processes by which different offices handle sexual assault reports. Students originally scheduled the panel for March 12, but were forced to cancel it after members of the committee declined to attend, according to student organizers.

Students have been protesting and organizing for greater transparency in sexual misconduct cases since March, after a Medill junior filed a Title IX lawsuit against NU in February. Organizers have met with Dean of Students Todd Adams and Patricia Telles-Irvin, Vice President for Student Affairs, multiple times to discuss their concerns. Thursday’s panel was the result of these discussions and was in large part organized by Weinberg junior Jazz Stephens.

Seven of the Title IX committee’s 13 members attended the panel, which was moderated by Telles-Irvin. Prior to the event, student organizers collected and submitted questions on various topics, including the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault, the process of reporting a sexual assault case and on-campus resources for survivors. Joan Slavin, director of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, and Tara Sullivan, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, explained the different processes for reporting a case between faculty and students and between two students.

Adams, who spoke on the panel, highlighted NU’s new sexual misconduct policy, which was implemented in January. The policy explicitly prohibits romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and students and includes a more detailed definition of consent.

The panel drew about 25 students, as well as University President Morton Schapiro, who spoke briefly at the end of the event.

“There’s no question in my mind about the number one job I have is to keep our students safe,” Schapiro said. “It’s a question that’s not always easy to figure out what to do. Sometimes we fail miserably with that.”

The students who organized the panel were also instrumental in pressuring administrators to cancel philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow’s Spring Quarter class. Since accomplishing these two major goals, the group is looking to reorganize in order to involve more students, Stephens told The Daily on Tuesday.

Weinberg junior Kayleen McMonigal, one of the group’s organizers, said students will continue to press for many of the demands outlined in a faculty-authored Change.org petition circulated in March. McMonigal said the group will continue to advocate for systematic changes to the way NU handles cases of sexual misconduct and assault even as the current Title IX lawsuit declines in prominence.

“I think it’s really easy to be angry about a specific case and be upset,” she said. “Really what we need to do is focus on making sure things like this don’t happen again.”

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