You've heard of Title IX but what is it? And how will it affect you as a student at Springfield College?
Mary Simeoli, Esq., the Title IX Coordinator on campus, answers all your questions (and more). Know your rights, know your resources, know more about Title IX.
How does Title IX affect me as a Springfield College student?
Title IX is the federal law that protects students against gender-based discrimination that can be a barrier to learning and participation in campus activities. Title IX mandates that institutions have a process for helping stop, prevent the reoccurrence of, and remedy any instances where a student has been discriminated against based on their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Our students Title IX rights are governed by our Gender-based Misconduct Policy. While a lot of folks think Title IX is about just sports or exclusively sexual assault it actually governs every learning experience a student has. Title IX ensures that equal access and resources are given to our students on the field, in the classroom, in internship and clinical settings, and even equitable treatment when it comes to things like discipline and scholarships.
Is Title IX just for women?
Heck no! If you’ve attended one of my trainings you’ve heard me say “Title IX is for everybody.” Title IX protects every member of the College community regardless of sex, gender, or orientation. People of all identities experience gender-based misconduct including sexual harassment, sexual and domestic violence and all people, regardless of their identity, deserve to be treated with respect and have discriminatory experiences remedied.
What's your Title IX background?
When it comes to Title IX, federal guidance didn’t create the policies or practice we know today until 2011, so while I went to law school knowing I wanted to be a Title IX Coordinator, that path, at the time, was not very common. Prior to coming to Springfield College, I was a Special Victims Prosecutor that managed a caseload exclusively of domestic violence and sexually-based crimes (shout out to the Law & Order fans! dun dun). I’m a certified Civil Rights investigator and trauma-informed practitioner. I graduated from Western New England University School of Law with a Public Interest Practice concentration with a focus in higher education. These combined with my experiences at other institutions and state Civil Rights agencies have culminated in my Title IX work.
Who else on campus works with Title IX?
We have a whole team of folks that work with Title IX in different capacities. We have four Deputy Title IX Coordinators, Jonathan Howell, the Director of Human Resources, Camille Elliot, Associate Director of Student Services, Michelle Lee Scecina, Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Enhancement, and Sue Nowlan, Dean of Students. In their deputy roles, they help to intake Title IX reports and provide students or employees with what we call “interim measures.” These are support services for someone who has experienced gender-based misconduct and could include things like changing a living or working space, or class schedule, or connecting a student or employee to counseling or other services. In addition to our Deputy Coordinators, we have a team of approximately 15 Title IX investigators. These are folks from across campus departments including faculty and staff who have been trained to perform civil rights investigations. Two investigators are assigned to each investigation, and a conflict check is performed before assignment to ensure that no investigator has a perceived or actual bias towards anyone involved in any case. In total, we have about 20 trained employees that contribute to our Title IX work here at the College!
I don't know if my incident is important enough, should I report?
No two incidents of gender-based misconduct look the same; if you have experienced something that has affected your ability to learn, focus, feel safe, or fully participate in any activity here at the College, whether it’s in a club or program or a classroom discussion, you should report it. A report doesn’t automatically mean an investigation takes place and there are a range of options a person has when making a report that can help resolve or remedy whatever the incident was that took place. No one is too busy to talk about your options with you, and you should know you are never an inconvenience.
Will my parents find out?
If you are 18 or older, no, your parents or guardians do not automatically find out if you are named in or file a Title IX complaint. By law, if a minor is involved, we have to notify their parents or guardians. Every student involved in a Title IX case is entitled to have someone come with them to interviews and meetings, this person is called an “advisor.” Some students have their parents/guardians serve as their advisor, while others choose to have someone else. Our students can ask us to communicate with their families or ask us not to.
How can I support the Title IX initiatives at Springfield College?
It’s up to our entire community to create a culture of consent, so supporting Title IX initiatives means being aware of your responsibilities, respecting and expecting consent, and speaking out when you see others not meeting our community standards. The Office hosts several events throughout the year you can attend to get more involved, and you can support us and learn more by following us on social media: @SCTitleIX
You're sure to see Mary on Campus (and you should definitely say hi!) so here's a little bit more about the Springfield College Title IX Coordinator:
Favorite thing to do in Western Mass?
I grew up in this area so I have a whole list. I love hiking and boating so weekend trips to the Berkshires are definitely on top of my list. I also love that we have so many great concert venues in the area that bring a lot of different types of music. Also, if you haven’t gotten coffee Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters or bagels at Tandem yet, you are missing out!
Silliest/weirdest thing you have in your office?
A Dolly Parton quote is waiting for you on the felt letter board in my office at any given time.
Piece of advice you would give to college-age Mary?
I’d tell my college-age self that it’s okay to say “no” to projects or opportunities when your plate is feeling full, and that to do so isn’t selfish. I’d tell myself to get at least a little bit of sleep and sometimes your body needs water, not coffee.
If you could have any other job...what would it be?
If I could be on Broadway right now I totally would, but as I have absolutely zero actual talent, I’m very happy to be here with you all.
Go-to lunch or snack item from Cheney or the Union?
When the moment hits and it’s been a long day, nothing beats a fountain Diet Coke.
Three things in you strive for in life?
To learn as much as I can, to experience as much as I can, and to give as much as I can. I think those three things bring people to really special places and to really special people.