At the beginning of the fall semester, a clarification of Title IX led to the addition of all-gender bathrooms on campus. However, as Dr. Helen Davis previously indicated, this was only the tip of the iceberg in regard to inclusion.
Title IX exists to protect against gender discrimination on campus. As of May 2016, this was clarified by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to include gender identity in addition to sex assigned at birth.
One of the big changes put into place for this semester was the ability for transgender and agender students to change to their preferred name. The change is visible on course rosters, in email addresses, and just about everywhere else a student’s name appears.
Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hart, formerly Samantha Phillips, explained that students who wish to use their preferred names soon will only have to fill out one registrar form, leading to a “streamlined” process that would change their name through every necessary department.
Elliot DeMesa, a senior psychology major who identifies as nonbinary, took advantage of this new ability as soon as they could.
“I feel a lot better now that it’s been changed. On the one hand, it’s much more convenient,” DeMesa said. “Since I introduce myself as Elliot, it can be confusing to have to give them an email address of a different name or have them recognize emails from me under a different name.
“It’s also nice that, since the name is no longer used in our school’s systems, people don’t accidentally call me Danica. Being called by that name makes me uncomfortable.”
DeMesa described the process as very easy.
“I don’t have any complaints, and I haven’t heard any complaints from others about this transition,” they said.
Due to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), other students who made this transition could not be disclosed.
In addition to the name changes, Davis said that a web page and brochure are being worked on detailing the locations of all 40 all-gender rest rooms on campus.
“I’ve also led informational sessions for student affairs and several faculty groups to provide information on Title IX protections for trans and agender students and to offer suggestions for how to make students more included, comfortable and welcome on campus,” she added.
In addition to streamlining the name change process for students, Hart has some more in store for Title IX compliance at Wilkes.
Wilkes recently received a grant from the Department of Education for the It’s On Us campaign, which aims to protect individuals from sexual assault through awareness and activism.
“We applied, and we were one of the schools that were lucky enough to receive the grant,” Hart said. The grant money will be used for a week long event at the end of March into April. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The event will tie into sexual assault awareness, and Hart hopes to “provide meaningful discussions” pertaining to those issues as well as sexual harassment and dating violence.
“We want to talk about how to have responsible relationships and things like that,” she said.
The event will begin with a keynote speaker, who has not yet been decided. “We’re looking for someone internationally known,” she said. After that, Hart hopes to reach off campus and into the local community.
“One of the things we intend to do with the grant money is invite local high schools in the community to come to our campus and have our peer trainers do the bystander intervention training with them,” she said. “We aren’t able to reach our students until orientation… I think the discussions surrounding sexual assault need to start sooner, when students are in high school,” she added.
The week-long event will include One Love Escalation training, which will teach students to read the signs that they or one of their friends is in an abusive relationship.
The week will culminate at the end with Wilkes’ own bystander intervention training, which will be influenced by what is learned from students and others during the week-long event.
The grant money will also be used to add to the first “Colonels Don’t Stand By” sexual assault bystander intervention video, which focuses on first year students, and include a video pertaining to upperclassmen.