While several Alma College students have voiced concerns about how the college handles Title IX cases, it is also important to consider how misuse of the Title IX system causes victims to suffer.
One student who chose to remain anonymous has seen their peers resort to filing Title IX cases in instances where they felt it may not have been appropriate.
“I have witnessed many situations in which friends [or people in relationships] find themselves in an argument . . . and instead of solving these issues interpersonally or even through third-party mediation, one person will choose to file a Title IX case. This usually leads to the second person counter-filing a case.”
This person believes fewer students would misuse the system if the college was more transparent about what Title IX really is.
“[The college should teach students] the severity and weight of Title IX. These situations are not jokes, petty fights or minor disputes,” they said. “These are cases of genuine discrimination or abuse.”
Another student who filed a Title IX case and wishes to remain anonymous also commented on misuse of the system.
“When students abuse or manipulate the system for their own gain or advantage, it makes it so that legitimate cases are not taken as seriously and are more heavily stigmatized,” they said.
“I can remember shortly after . . . my Title IX investigation…[people believed] I was lying . . . just for going to Title IX,” they said.
Aware of these students’ experiences, Alma College has made significant changes to the Title IX system. The college recently announced a partnership with Grand River Solutions and appointed a new Civil Rights/Title IX coordinator, David Blandford.
The college also expanded from two to four Deputy Title IX Coordinators: Alice Kramer, Kelley Peatross, Jonathan Glenn and John MacArthur.
“I oversee the process and make sure that we are doing our best to provide supportive measures, ensure the process is fair and timely and I also assign investigators, hearing officers and advisors as needed,” said Blandford.
Blandford wants students to know that they have options when filing a Title IX case. Students filing Title IX cases can choose to undertake a formal investigation, alternative resolution or seek supportive measures without formal action.
“. . . Alternative resolution, which isn’t always appropriate, brings people together to agree on a resolution and requires the parties to work together,” said Blandford. “Formal investigation is a long process that can require people to retell their story and is often the hardest; it is also the option that holds the greatest accountability and has the least amount of flexibility.”
While Blandford does not see misuse of the Title IX system as a major problem at the college, he understands why some students have concerns about it.
“I do not feel this is currently an issue on campus, but I can understand why students may feel that way,” said Blandford. “The process is very prescribed on handling false information and retaliation, and those things are taken very seriously.”
“This process also does not allow for any punitive measures to be taken against a responding party until [a verdict has been reached] at the end of a hearing,” said Blandford. “It does allow supportive measures to be put in place at any time to help support both reporting and responding parties.”
“All complaints filed with the Title IX office must be followed up on, and we will take every report seriously, regardless of what else is happening. We also investigate claims to make sure they are valid,” said Blandford.
For more information about the Title IX system, students can talk to Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator David Blandford in the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO).