The Title IX Office released its Annual Outcome Report to the Brown community Friday, revealing an overall decline in reports to the office compared to the previous year. The report details the number and types of incidents reported from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 and outlines the office’s goals and priorities for the coming year.
The Title IX office defines incident reports as any notification submitted to the Title IX Office. The data included in the report reflects “the full set of conduct prohibited within Brown’s ‘Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Relationship and Interpersonal Violence and Stalking Policy,’” according to the report. The report also includes conduct that “occurred on and off campus and during University-sanctioned programs.”
According to the Title IX Office’s reports, 59 incidents were reported to the office in 2017, a drop from the 68 incidents in 2016. Among these incidents, the Title IX office received 22 reports of sexual assault, seven reports of sexual or gender-based harassment and three instances of interpersonal violence, all decreases from the previous year.
“At a university of this size, I know that those reports don’t reflect all that’s happening within the community, but I was heartened to see that students are coming in and seeking support,” said Title IX Program Officer Rene Davis.
Acknowledging the slight decrease in the number of reported incidents, Davis said, “There’s not enough of a pattern to draw any conclusions because we only have two years in the system.”
She added that the office’s transition in leadership, which occurred last year, may have played a role in deterring individuals from making reports.
Hired in May 2017, Davis said the process of creating the report allowed her to better understand how the Title IX Office could improve its data collection methods.
Currently the report details the incident but does not include demographic data such as age or national origin, Davis added.
Davis said the “majority of the reports came from responsible employees,” such as Meiklejohns and Residential Peer Leaders. Reported incidents largely centered around undergraduates, but graduate students, faculty and guests on campus were also involved in a number of the reports, she added.
While the Title IX Office received 59 incident reports this year, only 12 individuals pursued the University’s formal complaint process to hold “another member of the University community” responsible for their actions, according to the report. Formal complaints represented “peer-to-peer/colleague-to-colleague concerns or student allegations against a faculty member or members of the teaching staff.”
Not all reports result in formal complaints, as those who report an incident can choose whether or not to pursue a formal complaint.
Of the 12 formal complaints, four dealt with sexual or gender-based harassment, three focused on relationship and interpersonal violence and five dealt with sexual assault.
In the formal complaints that dealt with sexual assault, the University found no individuals responsible in the incidents, which Davis said is an “interesting statistic to pay attention to.”
Laurel Bestock, associate professor of archeology and Egyptology and the chair of the Title IX Oversight and Advisory Board, said she was “a little surprised to see that none of the sexual assault hearings resulted in the finding of responsibility, but if you look over two years (of data) it, in fact, balances out.”
According to the 2015-16 Annual Outcome Report, the Title IX Office received six formal complaints of sexual assault, in which the University found two individuals responsible following formal complaints.
“We don’t want to see everybody being found responsible, that would just suggest a rigged process,” Bestock added. “It’s absolutely critical from our perspective that there’s a fair hearing process … and that respondents are treated fairly.”
Within the report, the Title IX Office identified increased clarity in Title IX policies, expanding Title IX training and broadening outreach as its three priorities for the coming year.
Davis said these priorities “surfaced in a number of ways” from her job interviews and conversations with community members.
The priorities “absolutely (connect) to prior (annual) reports, … and the recommendations of the sexual assault task force,” she added. Davis also said that she understood certain marginalized communities felt that the Title IX Office “isn’t a space for them” and noted that few male complainants came forward to report Title IX violations.
Improving relationships with these groups is part of the office’s goal to broaden its outreach efforts, she said. In the instance of improving the office’s relationship with male students, Davis said adjusting Title IX programming to “focus on the complexity of gender” and how male students can be agents of change would be beneficial.
“In the past, conversations on Title IX in (largely male spaces) focused on how to not harm and not necessarily to think about (male students) as bystanders or potential individuals who can be harmed,” she added.
Davis also said collaborating with student centers on campus plays a role in the Office of Title IX’s efforts to expand its outreach. “The complexity and the sophistication in which oppression happens (makes partnering) with colleagues very important,” Davis said, adding that her work with the directors of the Brown Center for Students of Color and the LGBTQ Center allowed her to enter spaces to discuss the nuances of gender-based and sexual harassment through the lens of specific marginalized identities.
Bestock said the Office of Title IX’s priorities for the coming year excited her. “The whole community attitude that (Davis) has with Title IX, that it’s more than just the process, … (is) a really positive thing.”
“We’re in a time … where issues of this nature in America are very fraught and anxieties about them are not just natural but very reasonable,” Bestock said. “I’m continuously proud of my students, the University and (Davis) … for their continued commitment to make Brown an ever safer place for our students.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the First Generation and Low Income Student Center is one of the centers that Title IX Program Officer Rene Davis has worked with to discuss nuances of gender-based and sexual harassment through the lens of specific marginalized identities. In fact, she has not yet connected with the FLi Center. The Herald regrets the error.