A variety of laws and regulations govern student rights at universities across America. Often, students aren’t aware of these laws, or how they impact their lives.
One such law is Title IX.
Title IX is a federal law that ensures schools do not discriminate educational, athletic or employment opportunities on the basis of sex. It also prohibits stalking, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Each university across the United States is federally mandated to have a full- or part-time Title IX Coordinator.
These individuals ensure Title IX training is provided to students, staff and faculty.
Johnson University complies with Title IX guidelines, and students first experience this during Genesis Weekend when they participate in the handbook review, which includes a Title IX statement.
Coordinators are also tasked with unbiasedly investigating reports and complaints, protecting the complainant and taking action required for issues that arise.
For Johnson University, the Title IX Coordinators are Mark Pierce and Garrett Thompson for the Tennessee and Florida campuses, respectively.
“One of the things that [the federal government] recently created is that they said every school should have a Title IX Coordinator,” Pierce said. “The reason for that is that somebody at that school needs to be responsible to make sure that the Title IX laws and rules are actually applied at that school and also to provide a place where students or employees could go to report problems and create some sort of mechanism where they can be corrected if they do occur.”
While Pierce is responsible for this oversight on the Tennessee campus, Thompson is responsible on the Florida campus.
As the Branch Title IX Coordinator, Thomson is the designated recipient of all Title IX grievances for the Florida campus.
“I also help ensure that everyone on campus is aware of the policy and procedures related to Title IX,” Thompson said. “Although thankfully there have been no incidents to date, I would be the first to receive a complaint through our online grievance form.”
Thompson said his first responsibility in any situation is to make sure that all people involved are safe. Then the Title IX Coordinator begins an investigation and assembles a team to assist in the process.
The form for reporting a Title IX incident can be found here. However, if a student is not in a place where they are safe from physical or emotional harm, they are encouraged to contact university officials and law enforcement officers immediately.
“The institution takes student safety extremely seriously. We want to know when a student feels threatened or uncomfortable in any way,” Thompson said. “We would prefer to prevent an incident rather than respond to one, so informing me or another university employee of a potentially dangerous situation is extremely important and beneficial for everyone.”
Since there are little to no reports that occur on Johnson campus, most of the time spent as a Title IX Coordinator is filled with reading and interpreting the law, as well as planning training sessions.
“There is much to do between semesters, especially during the summer as we assemble our publicity materials and prepare for faculty and staff training,” Thompson said. “For the most part, my role is to be thinking about how to make students, faculty and staff more aware of the issues and the procedures for handling incidents.”
Beyond sex discrimination, Title IX also prohibits discrimination based on color, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information or political affiliation.
It all boils down to safety and equal opportunities.
“Our overall goal as a university is that we want all of our students to have the same opportunities to grow and develop their ministries and their lives,” Pierce said. “I see that as a Christian value more than a federal requirement.”