Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Title IX Student Advisory Task Force: Where are they now?

Title IX Task Force helps to ramp up campaigning during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and on April 5, the Title IX Student Advisory Task Force emailed a sexual assault survey to University of Massachusetts students.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator Kerri Thompson Tillett, who is leading the task force, sent an email to the community outlining the survey’s goal and what to expect when taking it.

“The purpose of the UMass Sexual Assault Survey is to help the university better understand the climate on our campus around sexual assault and to make data-informed decisions to improve the lives of our students,” the email says.

According to the email, the confidential survey should take 15-20 minutes to complete and notifies students of the potentially triggering dialogue they should expect when taking the survey.

“In an attempt to be clear, some of the language in this survey is explicit, and some people may find it uncomfortable,” the email states. “Throughout the survey, you will have an introduction to each topic with a description so that you have a sense of what to expect.”

When clicking on the survey link, the website provides the number to the UMass Sexual Assault Support and Advocacy Hotline. Tillet’s email also provides contacts for various on-campus resources regarding sexual violence.

In recent meetings, the task force has also been working closely with the Center for Women and Community (CWC) who typically spearheads campaigning and raising student awareness around sexual assault in the month of April.

“It’s all the Center for Women and Community, but the Title IX Task Force came in as student perspectives,” said task force member Clare Sheedy, a junior public health and women, gender and sexuality studies major.

Since the announcement of the task force’s creation on Nov. 4, 2021, the committee has been working to implement and update various programs surrounding Title IX. Tillet provided an emailed statement outlining the task force’s various goals.

“The goals of this committee this semester are to provide feedback on several training programs, provide recommendations on how to best communicate the University’s commitment to Title IX, and to give the committee an opportunity to meet with CIC, the outside consultant who is conducting the seven-year look back on Title IX matters,” Tillet said.

According to Sheedy, the committee recently finalized a new training program for new UMass employees through Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN,) a national nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization. The training consists of a combination of videos and interactive scenarios to inform employees of their roles and responsibilities in the Title IX process.

“I’m really glad that that was able to happen,” Sheedy said. “That was huge just because before we just kind of noticed that there are quite a few gaps in both knowledge and also a lot of issues still with what is Title IX, what’s not Title IX, what’s federal law.”

Before every academic year, students must take the Your Intervention Strategies (YIS) online course regarding sexual assault prevention, relationship violence and stalking. The task force is currently working to update the course to make it more relevant to students.

“There’s a real need to have better prevention strategies,” Sheedy said. “That’s a big focus of what we’ve been working on is kind of updating and seeing how we can make it most engaging for students, and not just something people want to click through and not pay attention to.”

The task force also plans to meet with the Comprehensive Investigations and Consulting firm to discuss their collected data of recorded sexual assault and misconduct on campus.

“We’re going to be meeting with the CIC in April, so we were asked to prep meeting questions before our meeting,” Sheedy said.

According to Tillet’s email statement, the committee is also hiring Jules Purnell as the new Title IX Training Specialist in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. Purnell will begin working with the task force on June 5, 2022.

“They gave the committee a snippet of the types of engaging training they will be offering to our campus community” Tillet said.

“They were more than qualified and were passionate about the work. So yeah, that was, that was great,” Sheedy said. “I think we’re all excited to have them on and I think that would be really needed because there’s only so much that people can do in certain positions.”

In an email from Tillet to UMass students, she notes that student input regarding Title IX is always welcome.

“I have an open-door policy and invite you to reach out to share your questions, concerns, ideas and suggestions about Title IX. I believe that we always have opportunity to improve, so I welcome your partnership to make UMass an inclusive, equitable and caring campus community.”

Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JackUnderhill16.

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