Sofia Maietta ‘19
In an email sent out on September 7, the College notified the Holy Cross community of significant changes in the school’s Office of Title IX Initiatives, which has named Tracy Kennedy as its new permanent Director.
Previously the College’s Interim Director of Title IX Initiatives since June of 2017, Kennedy, was voted in unanimously by a committee assembled by Holy Cross which conducted a national search for a new Director. Beginning her career at Holy Cross in 2016, Kennedy started as the Title IX and Nondiscrimination Investigator, and “has many years of experience with sexual assault and domestic violence investigations and prevention, education and research, academia, and public health.”
The Office of Title IX initiatives commented that Kennedy has been “an important part of the Title IX process by providing education and advice and by engaging members of the campus community in important conversations regarding Title IX and sexual assault issues.” Kennedy is currently out of the office and unavailable to make a statement on her appointment as Director at this time.
The phrase “Title IX” refers to the series of federal laws enacted in 1972 that “protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. This includes sexual harassment as well as gender-based discrimination.
Included in the College’s email was also a number of other changes the College is making regarding Title IX initiatives, including hiring an Assistant Director for the Office of Title IX Initiatives and expanding training for all staff involved with Title IX initiatives.
The office will also institute a Title IX advisory body which will include members of the school’s SAFER Committee and whose purpose will be to work closely with the Assistant Director and provide guidance on policies and practice, educational efforts, and efficacy of new initiatives. Additionally, the office has updated the school’s sexual misconduct policy which can be found online at Holy Cross’ website.
In national headlines, the Department of Education has released new Title IX policies which are said to make notable alterations to existing policy. In 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos charged that the Title IX rules put in place during the Obama administration have led the system to fail, and she has since made a promise to make changes to remedy it.
The proposed national rules are designed to clarify and narrow the definition of sexual harassment and initiate a new legal standard higher than the existing one to decide whether schools have properly addressed concerns and complaints about sexual misconduct. Under these new policies, schools would only be held accountable for formal complaints that are brought to the proper authority, but would not be accountable for complaints said to have occurred off campus.
As many institutions are grappling with charges of sexual harassment and assault across the country, the issue of Title IX compliance and violations on college campuses is more salient than ever. A recent WGBH News poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe colleges and universities across the country aren’t doing enough to prevent sexual assault. Accordingly, changes from the College’s Office of Title IX Initiatives have come at an extremely pertinent time for the entire campus community, including current students and alumni alike.
Photo by Hui Li