New Title IX coordinator outlines position, future plans at ASOC GA

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The Associate Students of Occidental College (ASOC) General Assembly hosted a conversation between students and Ruth Jones, the school’s new Title IX coordinator, Thursday. Jones explained the work she has engaged with since her start at Occidental in February and took questions from the audience. Fourteen students attended the event, eight of which were ASOC members.

Jones explained that the Title IX office works with all sectors of the college community to support victims of gender discrimination through counseling and academic and employee accommodations. It acts as a neutral party if a student chooses to proceed with the formal adjudication process, coordinating the investigation, hearing and possible appeal. Additionally, the Title IX office aims to educate the student body through programming and training to prevent future incidents of gender discrimination.

“Of necessity, and appropriately so, Occidental has been focused on sexual misconduct. But sexual misconduct is not the only issue that we are responsible for at the Title IX office,” Jones said. “We are responsible under Title IX for ensuring that gender discrimination/sex discrimination does not interfere with the educational environment of Occidental College. That means Title IX is applicable to students, faculty, staff and administrators.”

At this point, Jones has concentrated most of her work on familiarizing herself with campus policies and procedures, including the education on sexual assault at first-year and transfer student orientation. Audience members asked multiple questions about future training for students, both during the first weeks of school and beyond. Jones answered that she recognized the importance of continuing to educate the student body after orientation and that she would assess when online or in-person training is most appropriate.

Jones also plans to keep the Occidental community educated by
distributing a yearly Title IX report detailing the office’s recent
work.

“In some ways, it’s important that people understand their rights and responsibilities under Title IX, but what’s even more important is we have an opportunity to engage in real discussions about, ‘Are we the individuals that we choose to be? Are we behaving in a way that creates the type of environment that’s consistent not only with the values of Title IX, but also the values that we hold as an institution?'” Jones said.

Jones emphasized her desire to meet students, educate them about her work and collaborate with them on issues of gender discrimination. She intends to organize focus groups on the findings of upcoming reports from the Department of Education and external consultants Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez.

ASOC President and economics major Nick McHugh (junior) praised Jones for her openness and willingness to learn.

“She’s very accessible,” McHugh said. “That’s one thing that I’ve taken away from my now three conversations with Ruth is that she understands her role on campus is new, she understands that she is new on campus and she knows that the first thing she has to do is get out and be talking with groups on campus.”

Students can learn more about Jones’ work by visiting her in office hours on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon in South Trailer D.