When we began this project, we looked around at the UMBC community and asked ourselves what every activist asks themselves: what is our community in need of to make it better? Around October of 2018, three brave women joined together and filed a class action lawsuit against UMBC for the way they were treated during their respective Title IX cases by the Title IX program and UMBC police officers. It sparked outrage and multiple protests across campus, and eventually led to the Student Advisory Committee to be created to hold UMBC accountable for the change they vowed to make. Combine this with the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the #MeToo movement, and the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, and we knew what our topic had to be about. We were all disturbed by the previous year’s events, and decided to do something to educate students about Title IX policies and procedures, how to file a complaint, and who students can go to to report their own cases or help their friends report.
Early on in this activism project, we knew we had to poll the student population to see how much they knew about Title IX, and the results were not positive.
Sixty-two students across several student organizations participated in the survey. While 95% of students said that they had heard of Title IX, only 44% were able to accurately describe Title IX in their own words. One third (32%) had heard of Title IX but could not describe it, while 19% were able to somewhat describe Title IX. Between the third that had heard of Title IX but could not describe it and of the 19% that could somewhat describe it, 32% described only Title VII, or both Title VII and Title IX. Most students could not locate the Title IX office and coordinator – 82% said they did not know where the Title IX office was located, while 16% were able to state which building the office was located in, but only one student was able to state which building and which floor the office was located on. Lastly, 73% of the students stated that if they or a friend needed to file a complaint, they did not know how to do so.
A little more than half (57%) of students said they had heard of the term ‘responsible employee,’ however, when asked to list who qualified as a responsible employee on campus, only 45% could list some responsible employees, and only 6% correctly identified that all UMBC faculty/staff are responsible employees unless they are specifically designated as confidential or quasi-confidential. When asked if they knew where to go for support resources, 58% of students indicated they knew where to obtain support resources, and 42% said they did not know where to obtain support resources. Of the 58% who said they knew of support resources, only a subset could identify at least one support resource – 32% listed the Women’s Center, 27% listed the Title IX office/Coordinator/website, 11% listed We Believe You, and 10% listed the Counseling Center.
If you’re as shocked by these statistics as we were, good. These statistics only make is that much more clear that Title IX awareness and education is so important and crucial for students to learn about in college, as well as for universities to properly respond to allegations with the respect and dignity the victims deserve. Students need to know this basic information so that if and/or when something happens to themselves or their friends, they know the steps to take without having to search for hours about. Students deserve to know their rights.
Armed with all of this information and the responses to the anonymous Google survey, we got to work. Since social media is so prevalent in our society today, and is the usually best way to get people interested, our first step was to create a social media account where this information could be shared with as many people as we could find. One of our group members created our instagram page, @titleixtruths.umbc, where we advertise Women’s Center events, post real statistics we found, quotes to inspire survivors, and promote our survey as well as our website. As of this post, we have 129 followers. Next, we thought it would be best to create a website that compiled all of the information we thought students needed to know, like an FAQ section about Title IX specific to UMBC, different articles about Title IX, etc. The website is linked below. The other reason for creating this website is so we could put it on our posters, which were distributed on campus bulletin boards and bathrooms.
I’d say that we’ve accomplished a lot in the past few months! What worked for us was splitting up tasks according to our members’ individual strengths, and constantly checking in with each other to see where we were. We didn’t run into anything that didn’t work, however if we had more time and could do things differently, we would have also made pamphlets to distribute around campus. Overall, we think our group worked really well together.
We’ve all learned about our relationship to activism, and how we see ourselves as activists. We are all very different people with different backgrounds, but when we talked about it, we realized that we did like being active in our activism, and that we all saw ourselves as activists. At the beginning, we all believed that activism had to be this big thing with rallies and microphones and banners, but that’s simply not the case. Some of us are more comfortable with online activism, whereas others are more than happy to speak out about the issues that matter to them. We learned that activism is different for everyone, but as long as you’re doing something to help your community and makes a positive impact, any act – big or small – is welcome and appreciated.
Some extra links to educate yourself on Title IX practices and procedures, as well as more statistics: