Ford visits Allegheny Student Government meeting to review college’s Title IX policy

Title IX Coordinator Gillian Ford visited Allegheny Student Government during its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13 to give a presentation titled “What you need to know about Title IX.”

Ford discussed students’ options when they choose to report a case to the Title IX office. She said there are four options: speak with the Title IX office, or file a formal, informal or criminal complaint.

When students come to the Title IX office, Ford said she must decide if she is able to keep the student’s desire for confidentiality.

“Sometimes somebody will bring a concern forward, and they really want to keep that information confidential. They want it to stay within the Title IX office, [and] they don’t want any action taken,” Ford said. “We really consider whether we honor that request or not.”

Granting a student’s request for confidentiality could limit the college’s ability to respond to the situation, according to Ford. She also stressed that there is a difference between privacy and confidentiality. The information brought to her in her office is never completely confidential, Ford said.

“I only share that information with people who really need to know and need to be involved in the situation,” Ford said.

Since students’ first reporting option deals directly with the Title IX office, Class of 2021 President David Roach asked a constituent’s question concerning their relationship with the office.

“How can you bridge the animosity some students feel between themselves and the Title IX office?” Roach asked.

Ford said she never thought of the office’s relationship with students in that way.

“There’s a real desire from the Title IX office to work collaboratively not only with students, but with other partners on campus,” Ford said. “If there is animosity, I would want to understand that better so that we can mediate that.”

The second option Ford reviewed is the informal process, in which both parties have a desire to resolve the situation in a cooperative way, Ford said. Although the goal of the informal process is cooperation, survivors of sexual violence or assault will not be expected to sit through a mediated discussion with the perpetrator, according to Ford.

“We’re definitely going to be looking at no-contact orders … [and] referrals outside of the Title IX office,” Ford said. “If a student decides they want to skip this option or end the process, they can do that at any time and begin a formal process.”

The formal process is an educational rather than criminal process, Ford said.

“Through an education process, we’re really looking at violations of policy as opposed to criminal behavior,” Ford said. “It’s not is somebody guilty or not, it’s has our policy been violated or not.”

The policy includes sexual assault, discriminatory harassment and any forms of sexual, dating or domestic violence, according to Ford.

With this option, the Title IX office is required to make sure the process a prompt, thorough and equitable, according to Ford. This includes making sure both parties have an adviser of choice present if they desire and have an equal chance to be heard, Ford said.

“Any time there’s an outcome–deciding if the individual who has been accused is found guilty or not guilty of violating policy–both parties involved will be made aware of that decisions, and both parties will be able to appeal that decisions,” Ford said.

If there is an appeal, the case will go to the Campus Life and Community Standards hearing board. The hearing board is made up of a panel of three individuals, two of whom are trained volunteers, Ford said. The third person is a faculty member who has been assigned to the committee through the Campus Life and Community Standards process.

The goal of the formal process is to have the investigation complete within 60 days, according to Ford.

The final option for students is filing a criminal complaint with the Meadville City Police Department or Allegheny’s Office of Public Safety.

“This is a completely separate and different process than what’s used on campus,” Ford said. “The complainant will meet with Meadville City Police Department to help the person decide if criminal charges will be pursued.”

Concerning the Allegheny’s reported sex crime statistics, Class of 2020 President Jason Ferrante pointed to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The Clery Act is a federal law that requires college and universities to report annual information about crime that occurs on and around campus, according to Allegheny’s Dean of Students website.

Allegheny’s Clery Act uses the broad term “forcible sex acts” beneath its Uniform Crime Statistics section, according to Ferrante.

“That doesn’t break down specifically was it a rape, was it a sexual assault,” Ferrante said. “But if you go under our hate crime statistics, rape is spelled out. Should we know how many rapes there were on campus last year?”

Ford said she has to report things according to the way the crime categories are defined but is unsure as to why crimes such as rape is only specifically listed beneath hate crimes.

During an investigation, Ford said accommodations such as room or class changes can be made. Trevor Mahan, ’21, voiced his concern over moving those accused of discriminatory and sexual harassment from one residence hall to another.

“Because we are a small campus, when we change someone’s room, people in the [receiving] dorm are not welcoming because it makes them scared,” Mahan said. “These measures, to me, say we tolerate [these actions], because the [accused] are still here. It makes me concerned, it makes the people in my building concerned and it makes other students concerned.”

Ford said automatic suspension of accused persons is difficult, as due process is required during the investigation.

Following the investigation into a crime, Ford said the school looks at various punishments if there is a violation. Punishments depend on the violation.“Generally speaking, if someone is found responsible for violating the policy against discriminatory and sexual harassment, and it is one of those higher level situations, that’s a suspension or expulsion,” Ford said.

Kelsey Evans
Title IX Coordinator Gillian Ford visits Allegheny Student Government to review Allegheny’s Title IX policy during ASG’s weekly meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Other options include warning, probation, counseling or educational components, according to Ford. The punishment depends on the type of violation. Students found responsible of violating school policy against discriminatory and sexual harassment during an informal process will not have anything placed on their permanent record, according to Ford. Instead, the Title IX office will focus on resolving complaints between students.

Allegheny’s Title IX policy encompasses students, faculty, members of Allegheny’s community and anyone visiting the college campus.

For further information concerning Title IX, Allegheny’s Title IX policy is in “The Compass” and is available on the Title IX website.