Reporting Sexual Harassment and Assault Under Title IX

Reporting Sexual Harassment and Assault Under Title IX

Andrea Swiedom Staff Reporter

    Title IX is a federal law that protects individuals at federally-funded institutions like UMF from discrimination including sexual harassment and assault as these impede on a person’s participation in education. When students experience sexual harassment and/or assault on campus, they have the option of reporting their case to mandated reporters who include the majority of faculty, staff, certain students employees, volunteers and peer advocates.

    “The only people out of this list who are not mandated reporters are the mental health counselors in the Center for Student Development, the UMF Health Center Staff, and Athletic Trainers when they are working in their Athletic Training capacity,” said Hope Shore, Assistant Director of Student Life & Deputy Title IX Coordinator through an email interview.

    When a student reports an incident, the mandated reporter must then inform Shore of the incident.   

    “I will then reach out to the student to see if they would like to meet,” Shore said. “If the student is interested, I will provide them with information about resources, support, campus policies and procedures and available accommodations.”

    Students or anyone concerned with an incident may bypass a mandated reporter by filling out the Title IX Incident Reporting Form online located on MyCampus under the Campus Safety tab or through the UMF Title IX website. This online form allows individuals to file their incident anonymously.

Franklin Hall, Counseling is located on the second floor (Photo courtesy of Andrea Swiedom).

    Individuals can also report an incident directly to Shore, which is what a group of students did in Dec. 2018 after encountering several occurrences of sexual harassment from the same individual. 

    The group of students will remain anonymous for their protection as the Flyer staff is aware of their identities and is confident in the credibility of their stories. 

    The group created a form for everyone involved to fill out and turn into Shore that described their experiences with this individual. One of the students involved expected the incident to be filed under the group’s name. However, even if a case is recorded with a group, each person’s case is treated as an individual report.

    Although students have no obligation to go any further once an incident has been brought to Shore’s attention, one of the members of the group that reported the harassment decided to proceed with the Title IX process. “I can back out at any point, but since I knew others were moving forward, I was going to move forward,” they said. 

    After the group filed their statement, the student met with Shore one-on-one to continue with the process. “I got this big folder of information and she basically told me that she would make the decision on who she would kind of push my case to next and it ended up going to Christine Wilson,” said the student.

    They met with Wilson, the Vice President of Student Affairs, to provide yet another statement that would determine whether or not the case would receive a full investigation. “It felt very official, kind of intimidatingly official,” the student said. “I thought I was just meeting with Christine, but when I got there, there was another woman directly connected with Title IX who was just there for recording.”

    The student was allowed to bring a person along for support while giving their official statement. “They were not allowed to say anything, but they were allowed to just be there, which I thought was a really nice thing that you can do,” they said.

    The incident was warranted a full investigation at the end of January. They were anxious and afraid while awaiting a verdict as they still had to function in classes, school activities and live on campus around the accused individual.

    “I don’t want this to last the entire semester. I just wish they had given me a rough timeline.  It’s just, you’ll hear from us when you hear from us,” they said.

    Shore’s office also provides students with the option to file a No-Contact order, which prohibits the accused from interacting with the accuser until a verdict is reached. However, the No-Contact order has its limitations.

    The student described an interaction they had recently in the Student Center with the individual whom they filed the complaint against, while tabling for a club. “He decided to walk right up to the table to start talking to a person next to me. I asked Hope if this breaks the No-Contact order and she said no. I was having a panic attack and I wasn’t able to do anything about it,” they said.

        Whether or not students go through with the Title IX process, there are several support resources available on campus that Shore reviews with students during initial meetings. “[Shore] asked me if I knew what services are available. I kind of knew, but at the same time I didn’t,” the student said. “I still said that I knew because I didn’t want to be there, but at the same time, I know that the counselors in Franklin have a month-long waiting list.” 

     None of the counselors were available for an interview, but students can visit the counseling services website for more information or visit their office on the second floor of Franklin Hall, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Counseling Center also provides emergency walk-in hours that students may take advantage of at any time.

Shawna Austin, SAPARS Associate Director (Photo Courtesy of Shawna Austin).

       There is also a confidential, free drop-in support service available in room 112 in the Student Center every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS). “This is a specific time where an advocate can be accessible to answer questions, be a listening ear, and/or work together with students to engage in awareness raising events and/or other projects,” said Associate Director of SAPARS Shawna Austin in an email interview.

    SAPARS isn’t affiliated with UMF, but offers an impressive amount of free and confidential support services, including a 24-hour helpline (1-800-871-7741) to assist anyone affected by sexual harassment and/or assault, support groups, and a Sexual Assault Response Team well-versed in legal procedures that will even accompany individuals to police stations.

A Study in Spaces (to Study in)

By Devon Hall – Contributing Writer

   As the season for intense studying arrives, UMF students may find themselves at a loss when trying to find the place that feels just right. Luckily for them, there is a myriad of places to study around campus with all different kinds of vibes.

   A solid place to start is the library. Books, a quiet atmosphere, and a café all make this a prime choice for many students. However, some might not realize just how spacious Mantor Library truly is. UMF junior Brooklyn Brown studies mainly on the first floor of the library by herself.

   “I found if I study in groups, we get distracted and don’t get much work done,” Brown said. “It helps me focus more if I just bring what I need here. I can get more studying done.”

   Mantor also has the mezzanine hanging out over the first floor, equipped with booths, chairs, and tables. A separate room attached to this space holds a 6-seater group room maintained at a toasty 70°F. The third floor is a designated quiet area. The only noises to be heard are the hum of the heating system hard at work, the occasional clack of the tech help desk keyboard, and muted voices floating up through closed windows from students passing the library.  The shades are left open to let natural light filter inside.

   Freshman Biology major Natasha says she likes the quiet, empty atmosphere. “Usually there’s just nobody up here,” she said. Sophomore Mecédaidh Phalen also attests to the emptiness. “I work every Saturday and there’s almost never anyone in there when I go upstairs,” Phalen said.

   Freshman Secondary Education major Jasper Emory has several favored study spaces, including the library basement and the basement of Scott South. “I like to study in basements,” Emory said. “Basements are better because I’m less likely to run into traffic.”

   Jasper also recommends the rainbow lounge in Scott as well as the Bjorn Plaza outside the Education Center in warmer weather. Just be warned, the door locks when it closes.

   Other students have their own preferences for study locations. Freshman Creative Writing major Alanna McGinty said, “people are loud,” and she prefers to study at home.

   One seemingly undiscovered gem lies in the third floor of Merrill, which is utilized by sophomore Rowan Bagley. “Just keep going up until you can’t find any more stairs that go up,” Bagley said.  This lounge space has whiteboards, a calendar, leather chairs in both black and chartreuse, art books, a piano, and a coffee maker.

   Along with big rooms with booths and couches, the library has many individual group rooms of different sizes, between small two-person rooms in the basement and bigger rooms or rooms with projectors. Students can schedule time in at http://library.umf.maine.edu/spaces.

UMF CAs Prepared to Help with Finals Week

By Alicia Davis, Contributing Writer

CAs in the UMF residence halls are mentally ready to help students during finals week, which  is one of the busiest for CAs throughout the entire semester. This is Josh Beckett’s third semester as a CA, this year in Purington. “We have a lot more duty hours because we have to be around to check people out of their rooms,” said Beckett. “The office is typically constantly staffed from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. For finals week, it’s staffed all day long,” he said. CAs feel they have more to do around campus than other college students, but especially during finals week.

Margaret Fogarty, a CA in Scott North, said, “I think we work all the time, so if I’m busy studying for my exams and someone needs me, I have to stop what I’m doing and help them,” said Fogarty. “I’m a lot busier than the average student, [especially] during this week,” she said.

   CAs also have to stay on campus longer than most other students. After finals week is over, CAs have to wait extra time before they can go home. “We stay until all the rooms are checked.We have to come back early in January for spring training,” said Beckett. “This gives us a shortervacation than a typical college student,” he said.

   During finals week, CAs have a few extra jobs. “There is a CA on duty throughout the day, in addition to the night shift in order to help people who are checking out,” said Loren Marshall, a CA in Dakin.

   Some students have been inspired by the work CAs do. Sage van Eekhout is a CA in Stone, and decided to become a CA starting her sophomore year. “I wanted to be a CA because my freshman year all of my friends were CAs, and I saw the impact they made on myself and others,” she said. “I wanted to be there for someone like they were for me.”

   Some residence halls have programs that are run during finals week to help students. “In Scott we have a program called De­stress Fest, where there are different activities,” said Fogarty.

“There will be yoga, Just Dance, bubble wrap popping, we have different ways to reduce stress,” she said. Collin Regan is in his third semester as a CA in Scott North. Regan said his favorite thing about being a CA is “making the connections and being there for people. Having the knowledge that I am a resource and I am available is a good feeling,” he said.

   These CAs work together to create the feeling of a community on campus and in their residence halls to help students feel at home. CAs are always available to help, whether it is tips on studying for finals or any other stresses in life.

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

Steve Decker: Custodian of Stone Hall, Every Student’s Friend

By Elina Shapiro – Contributing Writer

   As I turn the corner to approach my room in Stone hall, I hear a cheery voice, saying “Howdy! How are you doing?” and suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was soaked in the rain, freezing from the snow, or just did poorly on an assignment. I am excited because that means I am about to talk to Steve Decker, Stone Hall’s custodian.

Steve Decker, beloved Stone custodian
Photo Courtesy of Elina Shapiro

   Decker, always smiling, is great at giving life advice. “He helped me through a tough time last year when I lived in Stone,” said Kelsey Dunn, a senior Early Childhood Education major at UMF. “He told me a personal story that shaped my decision making and made my life more positive.”

   Decker has only worked in Stone, but he spreads enthusiasm around campus. “Last year when I walked up to Stone, he was waving to everyone saying, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Have a great day!” said Dunn.

   Students are Decker’s favorite part of his job. “You don’t know what they’re going through. You might say, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ and that’s all they need,” said Decker with compassion in his eyes. “Life’s too short to worry about things, you help where you can.”

   When I transferred to UMF, I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone. Steve made the transition easier because he was a consistent figure in my life who cared about how my tests went, when I was going to see my family next, and how I was doing overall.

   Dunn, also a transfer student, felt similarly. “Having Steve be that friend my first year after transferring was like having someone that I could go to for laughs, someone to get advice and guidance, and someone I could go to if I ever needed,” said Dunn. “To this day, I’m still grateful for all he’s done for me–whether it is stopping me in the hall just to say ‘hi’ or catch up to helping me get my car out of the snow last winter.”

   In addition to making a difference by talking with students, Decker also made the Stone lounge much cozier. He and his wife added blankets, stuffed animals, and photos to make the area look more like inviting and help people who were homesick.

   “He’s very committed,” said Alyssa Higbie, a junior Elementary Education major at UMF. “He’s made this a home, not a dorm.”

   Decker won the “Phil Watts” award twice, once when he first started seven years ago, and again last year. The Phil Watts award is given to UMF custodians based on student votes. Members of the CRC (Campus Residence Council) then tally up the votes. Higbie highlighted that not only Stone Hall residents voted for him, but students all around campus.

   Decker goes above and beyond to help students. Last winter, Higbie’s car was stuck in an ice dam, and within the hour, Decker reported to her that he had shoveled her out.

   “He does everything–snow blows, sands, cleans the stairs, bathrooms, floors, as well as vacuums, takes the trash out–he goes all over the place,” said Dunn with sparkling eyes. “He’ll do any big thing to little thing. He does it because he wants to make the community great.”

   Decker cares about every single person and makes them feel loved. Coming to college is hard, Decker is one of the first reasons I found Farmington and UMF to be another home. Decker not only does his custodian jobs, he is also a wonderful mentor and friend to all students.

   “Steve is a memory that will last forever. His personality, care, hard work, honesty, is something that I aspire to be as a teacher and a person in general,” said Dunn. “Steve is invited to my graduation if he’s not already attending.”