ASWSU lobby team talks Title IX policies with panel

Jenkins says universities should investigate sexual assault cases off-campus



OEO Assistant Director Holly Ashkannejhad, left, sits Pullman Chief of Police Gary Jenkins, right, and criminal justice instructor Oliver Bowers, center, says he sees a lack of awareness of Title IX resources on campus during a panel Wednesday evening in the CUB.

NAPHTALI CALLES, Evergreen reporter

The ASWSU Cougar Lobby Team hosted three panelists who discussed the current Title IX policies and sexual violence in colleges — both on and off campus.

Julia Iannelli, WSU senior and Cougar Lobby Team member, said they held this event because Title IX affects WSU’s campus, and it is important to lobby for issues that affect students. According to the Department of Education, Title IX is a federal law that states no person can be discriminated on the basis of sex under any program of education receiving federal financial assistance.

“The current changes the administration is pushing through … at the federal level are changing key policies like Title IX,” said panelist Oliver Bowers, criminal justice and criminology instructor. “I don’t think people understand the ramifications of the changes they have going forward, so I think events like [this panel] are important because most people don’t understand the nature of this unless it directly affects them.”

Panelist Holly Ashkannejhad, assistant director of the Office for Equal Opportunity, said WSU works hard to ensure their discrimination policies and student conduct processes are fair and neutral.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins, also a panelist, said he disagrees with universities that only investigate sexual assault cases on campus.

“If a sexual assault occurred off campus between two students, and then they are now back on campus, the university should hold responsibility,” he said.

Ashkannejhad said she hopes the Department of Education will look into the 100,000 or so comments about the changes of Title IX, and take into consideration that schools around the country have concerns about it too.

“I don’t think students feel confident coming to [the Office for Equal Opportunity], it’s hard enough to come to an office and talk to strangers about something personal that happened,” she said. “I think we as a whole can do better with making sure people have a safe place to come and ask those questions.”

Ashkannejhad said WSU needs to figure out better ways to communicate with students so they will hear and remember the resources available on campus.

“The single most common question I get from students is, ‘Why am I just being taught [about Title IX and sexual violence] now? I should have known these things as a freshman,’ ” Bowers said. “I think there has to be something in place early on…to give students a clear understanding of what consent is.”