Student Senate Hosts Title IX Open Forum

Lianna Brown ‘22, News Editor

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On Nov. 5, Student Senate held an open forum on Title IX for all students with Title IX Coordinator Kat Matic. According to an email sent out to Dickinson College students this meeting was “an opportunity to ask questions to Kat Matic and learn more about what Title IX looks like at Dickinson.” The Title IX office handed out fliers laying out resources, ways to report and an overview as to what Title IX is at the forum. 

Following a short presentation on the Title IX office, which covered information about the office and about the life of the referral or the report to the office, Matic explained that the Title IX office is a central resource for students and campus members. “Wants everyone to be as comfortable as possible when disclosing sensitive information,” Matic added. 

Following Matic’s presentation, students were allowed to ask Matic and Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Inclusivity Brenda Bretz questions.

Shea Player ’22 asked Matic about the change in the title of the Title IX office.

Responding to a question from Shea Player ’22 about the renaming of the office to the Office of Title IX and Sexual Respect, Matic explained that she updated the title of the office because “much of the work we do is about values of respect and integrity.” 

“I thought that Kat Matic did a great job answering my question about the name change of the office. I felt that the members of the student senate asked a lot of meaningful questions and that VP Bretz and Kat Matic answered the questions well and were transparent,” Player said. 

Kaliph Brown ’20 questioned where students should find resources for students who have found themselves in an uncomfortable non-sexual incidents. Bretz explained that reports about uncomfortable situations go to the Bias Education and Response Team [BERT] unless it is gender or harassment based, as those go through the Title IX office. Bretz continued that the BERT process is similar to that of the Title IX office, as the office will meet with the complainant is talking about and find ways to work with the complainant to diffuse the situation and give the complainant help with the incident or situation in which they feel uncomfortable. 

Matic noted concerns about introducing information about consent and on-campus resources during orientation and extended orientation. She emphasized the importance of teaching students, especially first years about not only the resources of Title IX, but also about the topic of sexual consent, and that she stepped out of the extended orientation sessions for first-years this year with the hope of creating an environment where students could talk about uncomfortable settings such as “What is consent?” She explained that she heard from Title IX peer educators that the programs were “not as engaging as they wanted them to be.” Matic explained that while she knows the information is crucial, she is unsure as to how to discuss these uncomfortable topics with students and give students the information they need about risk prevention with alcohol and hook-ups. “How do we get to a position where we can create an environment where first-year students feel comfortable to talk [about these topics]?” she asked.

Following a question asked by Student Senator Erika Faulkner ’20 about who mandated reporters are, Matic explained who that the mandated reporters on Dickinson’s campus are all faculty and paid non-student employees on campus and students who hold certain leadership positions, such as RAs and peer educators. Bretz explained that all mandated reporters are trained and alerted that they are mandated reporters.

This year, Matic is publishing an annual report on every number of reports she receives. She stressed the importance of an annual report and the importance of having the ability to report incidents of harassment. “I can’t stress enough that we have a good connection between administrations and students… I don’t fear high numbers of incidents that are reported on campus […] I’m very happy when I have reports, to me that signifies higher numbers showcase that the community is becoming more trusting of the office.” 

At the open forum, only five non-senate students were in attendance, along with three administrators, two of which were Matic and Bretz. The entirety of Student Senate was in attendance. 

 “I do wish that were more students here who are not senators or other members of student senate. This was a great opportunity to learn about the Title IX offices processes and resources,” Player said.

“It’s always difficult to get a significant student turnout at Open Forums; the late Tuesday night timing is easy to justify not going to these Senate meetings. As a student, I completely understand the feeling and business of student life, but I highly recommend students to come and attend them. Tonight’s Title IX forum was extremely informative, both by the senate members providing information on their experiences and the concerns raised by their constituents and the clarification that Kat Matic provided on the office, resources and processes,” Nadia Shahab Diaz ’21 said.

“I thought the Title IX meeting was highly informative, but I wished more students had been able to attend. I thought that most of the questions asked were highly constructive. There were many gaps in information that Kat helped fill in for the students,” Faulkner said. 

“I came to the open forum today because I was interested in learning how the Title IX office operates and I felt this would be a good setting to do so as people would pose questions to representatives of the office that relate to more pressing issues that the student body faces. This showed that Senate was catering to the issues of people not necessarily represented in Senate, added Sher Bahadur ’22, “I was however disappointed with how many non-senate members were at the open forum. Based on the event, I was not sure if this open forum was for senate members to engage with the title IX office or for the general student body to engage with the Title IX office.”

Student Senate will hold open forums for the whole month of Nov., with an open forum on Financial Operation on Tuesday, Nov. 11 and an open forum on dining services on Tuesday, Nov. 18.