Title IX education should be more than just a required video

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

One American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, and on a college campus, the risk is heightened.

So, why is our only required student training a one-time online course on relationships, sexual misconduct, consent and bystander intervention — a course that, by the way, is wildly easy to skip through? Why do professors copy and paste the Title IX policy on their syllabi without a second thought or a class discussion? Why have we treated an issue that is pervasive and threatening with passivity?

According to the American Psychological Association, sexual assault makes up the greatest proportion (43%) of on-campus crime in the U.S. This translates to 26.4% of female undergraduate students and 6.8% of male undergraduate students experiencing sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

At Baylor, there were a reported 22 cases of rape and eight cases of fondling in 2022. However, it is also important to note that reported cases are only a fraction of the sexual assaults that occur, as victims are often reluctant to report for a variety of reasons. Some may be confused as to whether what they experienced qualifies as sexual assault. Others don’t want people to know. Some are afraid they don’t have proof or will face retaliation. Others are uncertain of their options. All deserve help, and help is not simply reactive but actually proactive.

The college atmosphere can be incredibly dangerous for sexual assault, especially with parties and hook-up culture. This is precisely why the beginning of a new school year is coined “the red zone,” as the increased frequency of social gatherings often brings increased incidences of sexual assault. Such an environment necessitates special attention.

Of course, this isn’t a Baylor problem or a Waco problem or a Texas problem or a U.S. problem. This is a cultural problem. And the way to solve a cultural problem is through education.

Young adults need to understand consent. They need to know how to respond to rejection and accept no for an answer. They need to recognize that “being bad at social queues” is not an excuse for making someone feel unsafe.

Young adults also need to understand their options if they experience sexual assault. They need to know how to report and where to report. They need to be aware that faculty, staff, instructors, teaching assistants and student workers with supervisory roles are mandatory reporters — and that the Counseling Center, the Health Center and the university chaplain are confidential resources.

Finally, young adults need to understand their duty if they witness sexual assault. They need to know how to report and where to report as well. They need to realize that “see something, say something” is more than just a clever catchphrase.

Baylor has made strides in its Title IX efforts since it first established a Title IX office in 2014. The problem isn’t resources. The problem is awareness and utilization of those resources.

As a university, we need to do a better job of facing the reality of campus sexual assault. Required student training should be more immersive than a one-time online course — maybe with guest speakers, tabling or interactive campaigns. Professors should take advantage of syllabus day as a chance to discuss Title IX resources with their classes. The Baylor community should give campus sexual assault the attention it deserves.

Consciously or not, we often prefer to ignore sexual assault. Perhaps we do it because it hasn’t affected someone in our immediate circle. Perhaps we do it because we wish it wasn’t an issue in the first place. Either way, it’s time to recognize that it exists and that, together, through education, we can bring about true cultural change.

Clarification: When referring to Title IX student training, The Editorial Board is referring to required student training.