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October 2020

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By Kit Geary

Politics Editor

Everywhere you look people are telling students to vote. Check Instagram, check your emails, look at posters around campus, it’s everywhere. There is a huge push for students to vote this year. Why do people want you, a student, to vote, and how do they expect you to make an informed decision amongst the insanity that is the 2020 election?

“Young people in general historically have had a poor record of voting,” said Madeleine Kunin, former governor of Vermont in a recent phone interview. “When I was growing up voting was a privilege, compulsory almost, I wouldn’t think of not voting.”

Two voting organizations have made their way onto campus already. Vermont League of Women Voters gave a presentation to Student Government on Oct. 14. The second, Vermont PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) has worked with groups on campus such as MOVE, Athletics, and CAN! to encourage students to register.

These groups approached campus for a different reason. “The League of Women Voters is an extremely non-partisan group, their goal is to maximize the participation of voting and ensure elections work the way they should,” said Patricia Siplon, Professor of Political Science at St. Michael’s. “On the other hand, PIRG is an activist group that promotes progressive public policy and they are very interested in maximizing the student vote because students tend to be more to the left on various issues.”

In 2016 the U.S. saw a 48.3 percent student voter turnout according to a study done by Tufts University. Two years later in the 2018 midterm election, there was an increase in student voting. It looked like students were actually exercising their right to vote this time around. Candidates ran their campaigns all over the country, trying to engage students.

Fast forward to fall 2020, we are in a pandemic and campaigns can no longer be run the same. Debates are drastically different from past years. People are voting through the mail at rates like never before and the phrase “I don’t want to vote for either candidate” has made a reappearance from the 2016 election.

“I would say it’s something we hear about every election cycle when we look at the overall demographics of voters. Younger people are always less represented in the voter turnout demographic than people in the older age brackets,” said Michael Dougherty, digital editor for VTDigger. The encouragement for young people to vote is not a new concept and has taken many different forms throughout the nation’s elections. “I remember when I was younger and MTV was much more prevalent there was the whole Rock the Voter campaign, this was a TV and concert based initiative that got artists to talk younger demographics into going to the polls.”

While the push for student voting has gone full steam ahead, campaign events where students can get information from politicians directly have fizzled out.

“People may not realize politics is actually a very social activity. COVID has made it so we don’t spend the same amount of time with people and as a result more and more information is coming from online,” Siplon said. Student voters are left up to their own devices to inform themselves.

“This year we are seeing way fewer campaign events than we usually would. VTDigger has a voter guide to try and remedy that, yet it’s created a challenge for us as people who are trying to get information out there to voters,” Doughtery said. Currently Fox News and CNN take the lead for the most visited sites for election news, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center.

“Democracy itself is being evaluated in this election, the keyword now in politics is ‘divisive,’” said Madeleine Kunin, whose political career began in the 1970s. She has been a governor, deputy secretary of education under the Clinton administration, a member of the Vermont House of Representatives, and the U.S. ambassador to her native country, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Through her multiple political ventures Kunin has seen a plethora of political landscapes, and said this current one is like no other. “When I started politics in the 70s and 80s Democrats and Republicans talked to each other and worked together sometimes,” Kunin said.

“This is an extraordinarily polarized election, people feel incredibly strongly about it on both sides. People want to get out the vote for their side,” Siplon said. The divisiveness of this political climate has caused widespread fear and uncertainty. “The president has cast doubt on the outcome of the election… if there’s a low turnout and the results are indecisive then it will be easier for him to argue that there are problems with the election.”

Illustration by Kit Geary

“The more young people that vote, they set a new pattern and a new expectation, I am encouraged in 2020 by the apparent voter turnout, I just hope that every vote will be counted,” Kunin said. “There’s so much at stake for young people.”

By Jackson Greenleaf

Staff Writer

In a year of such profound uncertainty, college students have craved a sense of normalcy. As winter approaches, skiers and riders across Vermont are hoping that the mountains can provide. However, with the continued threat of COVID-19 looming, many are left wondering what the ski season will bring.

  “The main differences between last year and this year is the enforcement of social distancing and wearing masks,” said ShredMC President Una Langran ’21. “Each mountain will decide what their Covid plan will be, to their own discretion. “All ticket sales will be carried out online in advance to avoid overcrowding at the window.” Langran said. 

“Due to limitations on capacity for indoor gatherings, groups will congregate largely outdoors this year with six6 feet physical distance required when loading onto lifts.” said Ry Young, the Marketing and Events director at Mad River Glen. He also expects more guests will boot up and get ready in their cars instead of the lodge.

Both Langran and Young shared that the amount of out-of-state skiers and riders will decrease from last year as a result of the Canadian border closure. In-state skiers and riders and those with season passes, which is made up largely of college students, will not be subjected to the same restrictions. 

“It’s gonna look a little bit different like everything else this year, but I do have lots of hope for a good season,” Langran said, adding that she hopes .” ShredMC can experience deeper connections within the pods that will explore the mountain together.

“We can break people down into groups so we can get that community sense, so you can get to know your group members, carpool with them, hang out with them and maybe start to build a sense of community through that.” Langran added. 

The club is hoping to be able to hold the annual Jibfest in the spring this year pending approval from administration. “Jibfest is an event hosted by ShredMC. Students come together to build a unique set up of rails which they then compete on to determine who is the hottest rider in the school. It’s a lot of fun and prizes are raffled off to anyone who competes. Faculty and students who dont compete have a great time watching people throw down and it’s a great way to kick off the season.” said ShredMC Vice President Matthew Stackhouse ‘21.

During a year of great difficulty, the winter sports community hopes that it can provide an outlet for enjoyment, relaxation, and familiarity for students across the state. “ the physical act of skiing is going to be the most normal thing any of us have done since March.” said Young

Illustration by Matthew Stackhouse

By Grace Filloramo

Online Editor

These days, while trying to conform to the new “normal” COVID-19 has brought on,  it feels like college comes at more than just a financial price.

In the unprecedented times, it’s no longer just the stress of school work students are worrying about. Family businesses, health restrictions, social life restrictions, virtual learning, the health of family members and loved ones and so many more factors are taken into consideration. These circumstances have led many students to take the semester off, affecting their social life and mental health. . While trying to navigate this new “normal”, students are facing challenges and making massive decisions.

         “It’s hard enough already to actually go to classes but when we switched to online last semester it was just so abrupt and hard to stay on top of all the work. Switching to online definitely affected my grades.” said Lauren Henderson ‘21. 

Whether it worked out or not, online learning was an unforeseen adjustment all students and faculty faced. “There was no way I could have gone back this semester and felt confidently that I was going to do well. Especially with everything being so up in the air, no one knew what this semester would look like. I definitely feel like I made the right choice to take the semester off.” Henderson said.

Doing what’s best for your mental health is just one factor in deciding whether or not to go back to school during a pandemic, but there are loads of other reasons that influence student decisions. First year Addy Cook from Newport Center, VT said she was looking forward to her first year at SMC playing for the women’s soccer team, but COVID-19 changed those plans. “I decided to stay home because my parents have a business and it’s been really hard to find people that want to come back to work,” she said. “I’ve been able to continue working for them and take my first semester of classes online.”.

Things shifted a bit as more information came in.  “Once I got the okay from the NE-10 that I can still practice with the team, it started to feel like, okay this could work. I travel about two hours to campus around three to four times a week to practice with the team,” Cook said. “A full course load on top of bartending and waitressing is definitely a lot of work. I finally feel like I’m in a flow of classes and it’s getting easier. Either way being online for classes kind of sucks, I think it’s more work and a lot of staring at a screen.”

Sophomore Aisha Navarrete of Pawlet, VT is also trying to navigate what her new normal should look like in these unprecedented times. Like so many students, the financial stress of paying full tuition for a semester of hybrid online/in-campus classes was a price she wasn’t willing to pay. “If I were on campus, I only would have had one class in person, two online and one hybrid. To pay full tuition for a nearly all online workload was not worth it,” said Navarrete ‘23. “I’m taking a leave of absence from Saint Michael’s this semester and taking three classes online at CCV [Community College of Vermont]  instead. They will transfer to St. Mike’s as some core credits. “ Navarette shared she’s  also working three jobs at a retirement home, substitute teaching at an elementary school and reffing soccer, “I have to stay busy otherwise I’d go a little nuts.” 

“The biggest change this year is how students are exploring their college options,” said Michael Stefanowicz, Director of Admissions. 

 “On-campus visits are much more restrictive because our priority needs to be protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff on campus and we are responsible for complying with Vermont’s public health guidance.” he added

Whether a student wanted to go back or not is an individual choice. “I talked to my parents about it but they didn’t want to influence my decision too much,”  Navarette said.. With  recent back surgery, Navarette would not have been able to play for the women’s soccer team, and that also influenced her decision to stay off campus. “It was a combination of what made most sense, for my health, financially, and also I don’t think anyone knew what it would be like to be on campus with all the Covid restrictions,” Navarette said. 

Students who did return to campus have had to adjust to a different normal in their social lives as well.  St. Michael’s new guidelines have limited the number of people that can gather in one space, visitors are no longer allowed on campus and masks must be worn at all times when outside one’s dorm, suite or townhouse. 

For the students taking a leave of absence, their social life has been even more restricted. “I’m very sociable, I love people so being home is definitely challenging. I miss going down the hall and seeing my friends. I miss my teammates,” Navarette said. 

With a social life being limited to a home rather than a campus, these students are at a type of social disadvantage than their on-campus peers. Although we continue to socially distance on campus, those taking a leave of absence face an even greater sense of  isolation and distance from their community, friends and loved ones which can have a serious impact on one’s mental health. “I definitely think being remote this semester has had an impact on my mental health,” said Cook.

Silver linings can be found in new approaches taken that broaden the outreach to prospective students who don’t have the capability to come to campus. “The majority of our students come from outside of Vermont which means that campus visits require prospective students to spend time and money visiting campus.  The infrastructure we have built for online visits will still continue to benefit students for whom the distance, logistics, or expense of visiting campus is a challenge.” said Stefanowicz. 

By Ashley DeLeon & Liam GayKilleen
Deputy Editor, Staff Writer

  On the first day of classes of the Fall semester, a racist epithet was uttered by a faculty member in a peace and justice course at St. Michael’s College, leaving students and community members questioning the incident. 

     While providing a brief overview of African-American history on Monday afternoon, John Reuwer, a former adjunct professor of the Peace and Justice Department, used a racial slur during his course Theories: Conflict and Resolution. The professor used the epithet when describing a term that degrades black individuals. 

     When the incident occurred, students remained silent. “I was very surprised with what was said. It happened so quickly that I had no idea what to do,” said Sean Birch ’22, a student in the class. “The professor never stopped to apologize or explain,” said senior Kenzie Traska ’21, “He just kept going.” After experiencing much outrage and uneasiness from the incident, Traska said, she transferred out of the course. 

     President Lorraine Sterritt released an email to the campus community about the incident on Sept. 4, sparking campus-wide speculation on the nature of this incident. “We immediately undertook a thorough investigation and then took appropriate action,” Sterritt said in a later interview. “As I am sure you will understand, I am not at liberty to comment on a personnel situation.”

     Margaret Bass, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, stated, “Several administrators and I received an email from students a day or two before President Sterritt wrote to the community. Students reported that a faculty member used the N-word explicitly in class, and they felt uncomfortable, upset, and wondered how to proceed.” Bass explained that she visited the students in the class after hearing that some of them felt guilt in not calling out the professor’s behavior immediately, reassuring students that they shouldn’t feel guilt or shame. She described the action of students coming forward as a “Bold, honorable, and courageous move.”

     During that first class, before the incident the professor asked students why they enrolled in the peace and justice course. “I mentioned that I was shot by a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest,” said Hannah VanSkiver ’24, a first-year student in the course. “He made no verbal remark,” she said. When the racial slur was used shortly after, “I immediately felt sad that I was black,” she said.   

An Interview with John Reuwer

You stated that you “immediately regretted having said [the epithet].” However, according to students in the class, you did not pause to acknowledge the impact and wrongdoing, even after class had ended. If you immediately regretted uttering the slur, why didn’t you acknowledge it right when it happened?

“It was a highly stressful day, and I did pause. It wasn’t a long pause. I searched the room [for reactions]. I didn’t see anyone react, so I made a quick decision to let it go. There was so much else going on that day that I was worried about. I took my mask off at one point without realizing, and it was difficult to hear students with masks on. It was a decision based on the stress at the time.”

You stated in your public letter addressing the incident, that “I was not as aware as I wish I had been of the extent of pain it could stimulate in students.” However, you also stated earlier that you “immediately regretted having said it.” Could you explain this contradiction further?

“I was immediately uncomfortable with it, but nowhere to the extent of the students. That was a lack of my sensitivity. I regretted saying it and I had no idea what they were thinking. If it was a normal classroom, then I would have seen the shock on people’s faces. There was no way for me to see that [because of facial coverings]. Nobody stood up, raised their hand, or flinched. I asked myself, “do I want to make an issue of something that is not an issue for them?” I was clueless as to what they were thinking. If I had known the pain they were experiencing, I certainly would have reacted.”

During the course of your academic career, was it brought to your attention that the word is racist?

“I did not know this was a loaded term. I didn’t think that the use of it to make a point was necessarily harmful. If I had used the word to imply that people were lesser, then that would be different. I was not aware that it was essentially a taboo word. No one told me that. In that, I have not caught up with the current times.” 

Did you partake in any anti-racism trainings or workshops at the College? If so, what was taught?

“I participated in one a year or two ago. Trainings mainly emphasized the different life experiences for people of color. It also highlighted that racism is inherent and hard for white people to see, and people need to be sensitive to that.”

A black student in the class disclosed that during a class discussion, she noted the experience of being shot by a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest (after you asked students to share their thoughts). It was stated that your reaction was apathetic. What is your response to this?

“If I had heard that, class would’ve stopped and we would have talked about it. While speaking with an N-95 mask on, I was noticing how winded I was getting. Another problem I had was that I couldn’t hear many students, especially in the back. I asked students to repeat themselves a couple of times, then I realized that it would annoy them. There were a few statements I didn’t catch from students completely, and this must have been one of them. If somebody said that and I didn’t react, I’d be really pissed. I am shocked and horrified that it happened.”

Will you return to teach on campus, or are you on leave?

“My understanding is that the school has fired me.”

Given this incident, how do you plan on moving forward personally and academically?

“I very much want a chance to talk to whoever in the class would be open to talking with me. I want that ten times as much now than I did before. Especially now that I know about [the student harmed at a protest], better than anything, I want a chance to talk to the class to build respect, if not trust.”

Healing

     A new faculty member had been hired to teach the Conflict and Resolution course. “I play an important role as a young Black professor,” said Kayla Loving” This shouldn’t be recognized as a monumental event in 2020, but it is.” Loving said she hopes to provide a new perspective. “I’m showing students that they live in a biased system that favors those with more privilege– from their high school curriculum to global politics.” The new adjunct professor noted her background in restorative justice, stating that it allows for the opportunity to recognize harm and provide a space of healing. I want to provide my students with the skills to handle situations like the event they experienced in a way that will help them heal,” Loving said. 

     Loving expressed delight in the students vocalizing this incident of racism. “Usually, the outcome is a friendly conversation about how they are doing a great job,” she said, “but that it’s not okay to say certain words.” Loving said that all institutions should adopt a zero-tolerance policy for racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, etc. “We can’t continue to make excuses. How are protected classes supposed to feel safe when [students] know that they can experience racism at any moment?” 

Left In the Dark

     Some students have expressed disdain in the phrasing of the President’s email, claiming that vagueness and a lack of transparency left them in the dark about the August 31 occurrence. “The email doesn’t represent how severe the incident was,” said Jessie Anderson ’21, a psychology major who learned of the incident through the email.  “It seems that there was an intentional limit in the information we received. The email says that harm was done, but doesn’t address plans to give support to harmed students.” Other students argue that the language used was not just “racially offensive,” as stated in the email, but it was overtly racist.

     Margaret Bass, however, said that the email was not nebulous. “President Sterritt’s letter didn’t seem at all vague to me. She let us know that ‘a member of the faculty used a racially offensive term during a class,’ and that ‘racially offensive language will not be tolerated on this campus,’” Bass said.

     President Sterritt wrote in the campus-wide email, “… part of the endeavor [of accountability, inclusivity, and racial justice] is a commitment to review the College’s racial bias education and training for faculty and staff.’” Anderson ’21 questions, “If anti-racism trainings are effective, wouldn’t the professor immediately recognize this act of racism either before or after it was done?” 

Not the First Time

This incident follows similar rhetoric to a racist incident that occurred in February, when a staff member uttered the same racist epithet during the campus-wide Day of Learning and Reflection. Campus outrage demanded for immediate reforms, yet campus outrage about the August 31 incident has been dormant, said an anonymous student. When asked about the difference in outrage between February 2020 and the beginning of the semester, the student stated, “There’s less outrage because we’re used to the routine. The question is, are we willing to change our habits?” 

By Kaitlin Woolery

Photography Editor

PHOTO BY KAITLIN WOOLERY
Sodexo workers have new guidlines to follow restrictions that are in place, serving food and maintainig a clean environment.

Have you noticed students carrying out the new to-go containers from Alliot? The pandemic has drastically altered our way of living, especially when it comes to handling food. Prior to the coronavirus, Alliot was known to be buffet style, but with the new COVID-19 restrictions in place, self-serve stations are out in favor of a ‘take-out’ approach. But what to do with all that packaging?

“The ideal situation in terms of sustainability is to use reusable plates, cutlery, and cups, that was simply not feasible given the COVID restrictions and our dining room set up,” says Karen Talentino, professor of biology and director of the health science program.

The take-out food served in environmentally friendly containers was the result of discussion after COVID policies became clear. This allows students to use their meal plans, while not overcrowding the reduced capacity dining hall. The students are free to eat their meals almost anywhere including the outdoor seating areas. Students can throw containers and food scraps into the bins outside of Alliot. The bins fill up quickly.

“When we heard about the take-out dining model this summer, the Sustainable Campus Team advocated that all materials be compostable to maintain our efforts of living, teaching, and stewarding environmental efforts because it is so repeatable and all of a sudden at such a large scale,” said Kristyn A. Achilich, professor of environmental studies and director of the center for the environment. 

Eco-Products manufacturers of these to-go containers. “Our products can biodegrade in as little as 45-60 days when disposed of in a composing heap where microorganisms, carbon, water, oxygen, and nitrogen are present,” their website claims. 

 “We could have chosen different take out containers, but with the single use plastic ban also going into effect this summer, this was an unwise message and would have only caused a trash problem rather than a compost problem,” said Achilich.

There were a lot of factors to consider when making the switch to compostable to-go Eco-products at Alliot. “This was a major effort to coordinate and involve close collaboration and communication with our campus Facility team, ResLife, Print & Design team, Sodexo team, the Center, and our community partner, our waste hauler, Casella,” she said

 “We contracted with Casella to manage the additional compostable containers, because our own compost facility is fine for food scraps, but not for the volume of compostable containers we are generating,” said Talentino.

It took a lot of effort to provide the environmentally friendly take-out containers that we see students carrying all over campus this Fall. “It all happened right before school started so it was a heavy lift but we are proud to bring this effort to campus at this scale,” said Achilich. “We are hopeful that the COVID restrictions will not last into next semester, but we are looking into alternatives to compostables, should that be necessary,” said Talentino.

PHOTO BY KAITLIN WOOLERY
These sustainable containers, offered in Alliot, allow students to enjoy a meal outside.

By Kit Geary
Politics Editor

Whether you are one of the 429 students from Vermont on campus, or you call a different state home, this upcoming gubernatorial election matters to you. The next choice of governor will impact your life directly as a student in more ways than you may realize. Of the plethora of issues that candidates are focusing on in their campaign three have captured students: handling Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the climate crisis. 

COVID and the ELECTION

Currently Vermont stands in the national spotlight for its handling of the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently joined Gov. Phil Scott’s weekly press conference via Zoom and said “I strongly believe that if we do what you [the state of Vermont] have been doing in the rest of the country…we cannot only get through the fall and the winter, but can come out the other end better off than we went in.” 

Mark Levine was appointed by the Phil Scott administration to head the Vermont Department of Health. This administration could continue on or end this November. What will happen if Democratic candidate David Zuckerman wins the election? Will he reappoint Dr. Levine as head health commissioner, and if he does will Dr. Levine say yes?

 “Within the state of Vermont there is a definite coherent state strategy that the health department is part of, but obviously it comes from the governor on down, there’s a respect for science and data that really drives the entire process,” said Levine. Levine along with the other offices of the governor’s administration have been working tirelessly to keep this state healthy, and they have found much success. Soon there will be a change, and either way Dr. Levine says he is willing to stay on and continue his position as the health commissioner.

 “Should Governor Scott be the winner he has not said anything to the effect that he would break up the team. He considers this a very team directed enterprise,” Levine said. David Zuckerman also has mentioned a handful of times, via Bernie Sander’s livestreams, that he hopes that Levine will be willing to hold his position if a change of administration occurs.

 “I’d let it be known that I’m in the pandemic response for the long run, I’m not trying to be influenced by whatever happens in the election,” Levine said.

BLACK LIVES MATTER and the ELECTION

Vermont has had its run in with racist incidents this year. Black Lives Matter protests have been occuring nightly in downtown Burlington. Protestors are currently infuriated with the city’s police department. Mark Hughes, a racial justice activist, resigned from the Burlington Police Commission earlier this month. During his public resignation Hughes declared racism in Vermont to be a public health emergency and expressed concern that Mayor Miro Weinberg has shown no “political will” towards the subject. Vermont residents are looking towards its leaders and demanding change and racial justice. 

“Elections have real consequences for real people, including people who have been historically marginalized,” said James Duff Lyall, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont. Across the state there are numerous racial justice initiatives happening, some will have an effect on the whole state and some will only affect certain towns. For instance, on a local level people are calling to have police officers removed from Montpelier and Winooski schools systems. Duff Lyall says people need to be aware of the issues candidates are running on pertaining to racial equity when they cast their ballots. “Whoever is elected governor is going to have a lot of work to do to address the legacy of racism in the country and in this state,” Duff Lyall said. The ACLU is a bipartisan organization and cannot back one candidate, but they are hopeful for a candidate who will implement serious change.

CLIMATE CHANGE and the ELECTION

The Vermont House of Representatives just overrode Phil Scott’s veto to the Global Warming Solutions Act which requires retail suppliers in the state to obtain 75 percent of their annual electricity sales from renewable sources by the year 2032. The catch is that this act has a provision that any entity in the state of Vermont could sue the state Government for failing to reach those goals. 

“The greater Burlington area is really a national leader in climate change solutions,” said Laura Stroup, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Science. The state’s economy is so vulnerable to climate change because the ski industry brings in a good deal of the state’s revenue. Many Vermonters’ livelihoods depend on a healthy ski economy, global warming has been and will always be on their minds when they head to the polls.

 “Zuckerman is running his campaign on a Vermont farmer, can- do kind of attitude. On the other hand Scott is a Republican yet he clearly is willing to hear out issues more broadly from both sides,” Stoup said. The current times make dealing with climate change more difficult. The coronavirus has been draining states financially and Vermont has felt this hit. The victor will have to consider the money that following through with the Global Warming Solutions Act will take, as well as the fact that there lies the possibility of being sued.

 Voters in Vermont are left questioning how the next Governor will run this state and what issue will they focus on?

PHOTO COURTSEY OF PHIL SCOTT FOR VERMONT
PHOTO COURTSEY OF ZUCKERMAN FOR VERMONT

By Kit Geary

Politics Editor

When I first read the new changes to Title IX, “Federal law provides that Title IX “shall not apply” to educational institutions that are “controlled by a religious organization,” I froze.

  On Sept. 9 Executive Order 13864 final rule was put into place and this was the second bullet outlined on that act.

  I am not overly knowledgeable about Title IX, but I do know that it pertains to education equality and gender and sexual based violence issues. So naturally bullet number two scared me out of my mind. I needed to talk to someone who understands what this means to me, a college student. So, I found Catherine Welch, the St. Michael’s College Title IX coordinator. Welch focuses on all potential issues gender based, whether it be gender based violence or gender-based issues in general, that might deny someone access to their education.

Q: What is Title IX?

A: Title IX is a rule or regulation that was first released in 1972, signed into law by President Nixon. It essentially says no one’s access to education should be or can be denied based on gender.

Q: Had sexual assault issues on college campuses always fallen under Title IX? If not, why do they now?

A: The focus on Title IX and sexual assault started back in the Obama administration, so 2008-2016. The administration took issues of sexual assault and violence on campuses and said that folks that might be experiencing this, their access to education is 100% being affected and colleges need to deal with it. They aimed to create a system where colleges and universities were very survivor focused and trauma informed. This was all encouraged, not required. We are now seeing that change with a shift in presidential administrations. The Trump administration and Betsy Devos took the last four years to undergo this lengthy comment and review period to release regulations that are binding. It was the first-time regulations for Title IX had been released since 1972. It is a big deal that she went through a different process than the Obama administration did to really require that colleges follow the regulation put in place.

Q: Who is Betsy Devos and what does her role have to do with Title IX?

A: Betsy Devos is the Secretary of Education as appointed by the Trump administration. Within the Department of Education is the issue of civil rights. They are the ones that wake up in the morning thinking about civil rights issues. That’s so many things from K-12 into higher education. One of the things is thinking about gender and sexual based violence in any educational system.

Q: Why would a shift in presidential administrations change this?

A: Some would say that the Trump administration believed Title IX to be like a sort of pendulum that the Obama administration had swung too far in one direction. The Trump administration was interested in swinging that pendulum back to the middle. Focus was put more on due process rights. They were and are very concerned about those accused, and that the rights of individuals in due process are adhered to and respected.

Q: How has the process of reporting changed?

A: So, I think that’s yet to be seen since schools have only had to adhere to these requirements since August 14th. The process for Title IX complaints that we are now required to adhere to does require a live hearing. Before these new requirements sexual assault complaints were done through a shuttling process. I, as the Title IX coordinator, was often used as a middle ground for both parties to communicate through. There was never a live hearing. We now realize that this process involving a live hearing is potentially one reason why folks choose not to go through the criminal justice law enforcement system. Both parties won’t be in the same room but both parties’ advisors will have the ability to ask people questions. Advisors will communicate through some means of technology during these hearings such as Zoom.

Q: What is the “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” Executive Order?

A: So, I don’t know all the details of that, but I do know a question that was kind of floating while they were doing their final question and comment period was “Can religious institutions apply for an exemption from the order if they want to make that argument?” That question had been lingering for a while and this order gave an answer to that. The answer is now yes.

Q: So will St. Michael’s stop following the Title IX guidelines?

A:  St. Michael’s College is committed to addressing sexual and gender-based violence and would not seek any sort of exemption.

Illustration by Ashley DeLeon