Northampton Combating Sexual Assault with Title IX
Amira Shokr and Annisa Amatul Muqtadir
Due to incidents in past years, tension has increased as parents and college students worry about the risks of sexual assault happening on their college campus. For NCC, it is important to keep residents in the dorms comfortable and feeling safe, so there are many precautions towards sexual harassment.
NCC follows the nationwide law of Title IX, which states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Sexual assault and misconduct also falls under the domain of Title IX.
Columbia University became one of the most controversial collages concerning sexual assault when former student Emma Sulkowicz claimed she was raped. The university, despite multiple accusers coming forward with accusations against the same man, did nothing.
According to The Journal of American College Health, “35 percent of college men expressed some probability of raping a woman if they knew they would not be caught.”
One female student, who wishes to remain anonymous due to the nature of the material, stated, “If it were me, I would just keep a sexual assault to myself and get over it on my own, to me if you talk about it, it makes it worse.”
Another study in an article entitled “I’d rather be doing something else; Male Resistance to Rape Prevention Programs” shows that in a survey of across 22 universities, 90 percent of respondents noted that they had acted in sexually aggressive ways in bar or party contexts, leading the researchers to conclude that sexual aggressiveness appears to be normative in these settings.
Situations where a college wants to sweep sexual assault under the rug to avoid a tarnished reputation and become another statistic seem to be occurring more often. This gives the impression that they value their reputation more than a student’s well-being.
In NCC’s dorms there is not much concern about sexual harassment. The residents feel comfortable and safe in the dorms, and generally have no problems with harassment. Resident Advisor Lauren Strong reports her hall has no problems regarding sexual assault or harassment. RA Strong said that she “doesn’t get a lot of concerns” regarding sexual harassment in the dorms and mentions that “noise is the biggest issue we have.”
Parents also consider the campus to be “a safe campus,” said Strong about parent visits at the dorms.
If there is a incident of sexual harassment or assault, the students and residents are instructed to contact either Mitch Murtha, the Assistant Dean of Students and Title IX Deputy Coordinator, or one of the Resident Advisors in the dorms. The Resident Advisors all undergo training for how to respond to sexual assault or harassment, and eventually report the occurrence back to Murtha.
It is important to keep NCC’s residence halls safe from sexual assault, but it is also equally important to keep the entire campus aware of sexual assault.
Northampton incorporates Title IX heavily into the system, discussing it at orientations, college success classes, posting flyers all around campus, and distributing handheld pamphlets.
Yet there are some students who do not know about Title IX and how NCC handles sexual assault, or do not feel NCC does a lot to handle sexual assault. Another anonymous student stated, “Their policy is crap, it isn’t very good and they don’t keep people well informed.”
However, student Salem Perez stated the complete opposite, “NCC does a lot. They are the most dedicated people I’ve met. Mitch [Murtha] is very dedicated to his work with Title IX and student conduct at NCC.”
Mitchell Murtha discussed Title IX and how NCC handles sexual assault on campus. Murtha has been working at Northampton for fifteen and a half years, and has been Title IX deputy coordinator for two and a half years. He became Title IX coordinator by working in student conduct, and then becoming a deputy for Title IX.
Murtha believes NCC does not have an issue with sexual assault. “My initial response is no, I do not think it is an issue on campus, but on the flip side, if there is one that’s an issue, and that’s too many.”
He feels NCC can further prevent sexual assault on campus by “continuing to educate students, and continuing to educate staff and faculty… Unfortunately, I don’t know that there is any way to one hundred percent prevent it on a college campus, but as an educational institution education is key.”
When NCC does experience a case of sexual assault, he said that they make sure the victims of sexual assault feel as comfortable as possible. If they are in class with the alleged perpetrator they will switch their classes. If they are in the residential halls in close proximity, they may move them. Also, they provide counselling services on campus and inform victims of off-campus services; whatever can be provided for the victim’s emotional support, they make sure they can provide.
When Mitchell Murtha is asked about whether or not NCC posts a public bulletin when any type of violence happens at NCC, he stated, “We have Clery Report that we are required, and we do, publish annually that has our crime statistics on them…we make things known publicly if there is a timely warning element to it. So let’s say there is something happening on campus and we need to warn the masses we will do that.”
Former Vice President of Student Affairs, Susan Salvador illustrated this point by sending a campus-wide email in March about a man at NCC Main Campus who was inappropriately approaching women. Once he was reprimanded, she sent out another email informing the campus.
The Clery Report can be found on NCC’s website in the Campus Safety section under “Security Information.” A Clery Report is a list of all crimes, from aggravated assault to arson, committed on college campuses. Collages which receive federal financial aid are obligated to make this information available to the public.
The latest crime report is from 2014, and also covers crimes committed on campus in 2012 and 2013. The only recorded cases of sex offences are labeled as “forcible,” as opposed to non-forcible. One offense occurred in 2013, and two in 2014. All three took place in the resident facilities.
The increasing population of NCC residents presents a potential problem. “Well I think any time you have more individuals in one space, especially in living quarters, the chances increases… But we have been definitely doing more with the resident’s hall populations to make sure that we’re having conversations about it and educating them. We’re doing more now than we were when there were 300 here prior. So the potential is there, yes,” said Murtha.
When asked if armed security could help prevent sexual assault, Murtha replied, “…the majority… of sexual assaults that happen, happen between acquaintances. So in the training I have been to, it is extremely rare that it happens with a person in the white van with no windows; somebody hiding behind the bushes coming out and attacking someone. I think those types of sexual assaults could be lessened by armed security, factually. That happens so rarely, more often than not it is somebody that the person knows.”