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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

MU Title IX Office Releases First Yearly Report, Citing 332 Sex-Based Discrimination Reports

2014-2015 Annual Report
MU Title IX Offfice

During the last 18 months, the University of Missouri has made changes in an effort to protect students from sex-based discrimination. This included opening a Title IX office and hiring staff, requiring all staff and faculty to act as mandatory reporters, as well as the entire University of Missouri system revising its policies in regards to sex-based discrimination.

After all of these changes, the MU Title IX office has released its first annual report, which details the number and type of discriminatory acts, based on sex, gender, sexual identity and orientation and others that occurred during the last year.

Credit Rebecca Smith / KBIA
Ellen Eardley, Title IX adminstrator

Ellen Eardley, the Title IX administrator and assistant vice provost, began at MU in April and said it is the intention of the office to provide annual reports on discrimination beginning this year. But since the Title IX office has only been open for a little over a year, there isn't previous data to compare this to. So, this report will serve as the baseline for reports to come.

“We think it’s good news that students and employees are reaching out to our office and seeking services as well as accommodations and learning about their rights and options,” Eardley said.

According to the first annual report, there were 374 policy violations that were reported to have affected 328 people. That’s equivalent to more than one incident occurring every day during the reporting period – August 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015.

"The reality is that sex discrimination - including sex-based violence - happens at the University of Missouri and on college campuses across the country. We wish that no one had to endure these types of behaviors, but we are encouraged that the Mizzou community is regularly engaging with the Title IX Office when sex discrimination does occur." - Excerpt from the 2014-2015 MU Title IX Report

Sexual misconduct was the most common allegation with 124 incidents reported over the last year. Sexual misconduct includes allegations such as nonconsensual sexual intercourse or rape/sexual assault, nonconsensual sexual contact or sexual assault, exposing one’s genitals and sexual exploitation.

Detailed descriptions of all types of sex discrimination can be found in the full report.

Of the 124 sexual misconduct allegations, 62 incidents or 50% were nonconsensual sexual intercourse or rape.

Eardley said she believes sexual misconduct is the most common allegation because this issue receives more national attention and students may be more aware that this is a type of discrimination to be reported to their office.

She said there is sometimes a lack of understanding that Title IX actually prohibits all types of sex-based discrimination.

“Title IX addresses sex-based harassment, harassment in the classroom, harassment outside on the quad,” Eardley said. “And so some students don’t even realize that they could report that kind of information to our office and one of the things that our office is doing is additional education about those opportunities to report.”

Of the 124 sexual misconduct allegations, 62 incidents or 50% were nonconsensual sexual intercourse or rape.

One specific type of discrimination Eardley said she hoped to make students more aware of is sex-based violence that occurs through technology, such as taking or sending photos without consent.

“We need to work hard, all of us on campus, to stand up and say that any kind of sex-based discrimination is unacceptable,” Eardley said.

Eighty-five incidents of sexual harassment were alleged during the first annual reporting period, making it the second most common allegation. The next most common were dating/intimate partner violence (49), stalking on the basis of sex (31), and sexual exploitation (30).

Eardley said she would not be surprised to see the number of reported incidents go up over the next few years, but not necessarily because more incidents are occurring at MU.

“As more students and staff and faculty understand about the resources that we can offer in our office, I think that more will feel comfortable coming forward and connecting with our office or connecting with the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center on campus,” Eardley said. “And we want those students, when something does occur, to seek our help.”

She was sure to add that when students either approach their office with an allegation or when a concern in raised by a campus mandatory reporter – faculty or staff – the student is in the “driver’s seat.”

This means after the Title IX office makes the student aware of their rights, their options in pursuing those rights and the resources on campus that support them - then the student is able to make their own choice of whether or not they wish to remain in contact with the office and move forward with an investigation.

According to the report, the most common location the reported incidents occurred was on the MU campus – over 43%, with off-campus locations accounting for 33.4% of incidents reported.

Credit 2014-2015 Annual Report / MU Title IX Office
MU Title IX Office

Of the 332 individuals that were reported to have been affected by some type of sex-based discrimination between August 1, 2014 and July 31, 2015, nearly 250 of them communicated in some way with the Title IX office.

The report specified that these communications with affected individuals are added to a private data base and will be used to try and thwart future discrimination whenever possible.

More than 150 individuals chose to communicate with the office and receive some type of “accommodation,” which includes academic adjustments, request for counseling services – from the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center, as well as other confidential counseling services on campus.

Danica Wolf is the coordinator of the RSVP center and she said she was glad to see the annual report include a list of the confidential spaces available to students – including the RSVP center, the MU Counseling Center, the Student Health Center and a few others.

“There are confidential spaces to share information, if they're [individuals affected] not sure what they want to do next,” Wolf said. “For example, if they come to our office and share with us - we are a confidential space. We have employees who can be confidential and we will help them explore all of the options including reporting to Title IX, the police or any other avenue they want.”

Credit 2014-2015 Annual Report / MU Title IX Office
MU Title IX Office

Just 33 incidents of sex-based discrimination, of the more than 370 policy violations that occurred, were resolved using the university’s Equity Resolution Process. After the investigation process, 12 were resolved using conflict resolution and 12 were decided using informal or formal resolution processes.

Of the informal and formal resolutions, eight individuals were found responsible for acts of sex-based discrimination and 4 were found not responsible. This resulted in 7 suspensions, 1 individual receiving discretionary sanctions and no expulsions during the reporting period.      

Danica Wolf, with the RSVP center, said her major takeaway from the report was that it looks like more attention and support is being given to victims, and she hopes those affected feel as if they will be supported in any way they need.

When asked if she thought this report and the Title IX office would help reduce the number of underreported discrimination cases, Wolf responded “I really don’t know.”

“I think people are going to do what they feel comfortable with and I hope they continue to,” Wolf said. “I hope folks don't feel pressure to speak to anyone - my office included. I just want to make sure that we're maximizing the number of options that people have so that they can seek the support that they need.”

"I hope folks don't feel pressure to speak to anyone - my office included. I just want to make sure that we're maximizing the number of options that people have so that they can seek the support that they need."

 Wolf added that she believes as long as the conversation about discrimination is continuing, it is positive, and she said she thinks the more these issues are talked about the less taboo they become and the more likely it will be that people will intervene when any type of sex-based discrimination is occurring.

Eardley said that as more data is collected, it will be used to look for ways to improve the prevention education that is taking place all over campus.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
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