Op-Ed: The Evolution of Title Mine: From April 2018 to Now

Candace Hayes | President and Jodie Goodman | VP of Administration

Title Mine is a trauma-informed, survivor-centered activist movement that serves as a bridge between the student body and the administration, but most don’t know our origin story.

In April 2018, an op-ed in Stud Life informed students that there was a serial predator on campus, one whom the Office of Residential Life, the Title IX Office and Washington University Police Department had all received reports on over the course of several months. The article’s anonymous author wrote that her assailant had physically attacked her, yet the campus bureaucracies seemed incapable of responding. She’d gone public with her story, she said, after learning that another student had accused the man of rape. A half-dozen similar op-eds followed, detailing the harrowing and traumatic experiences of students who experienced sexual violence at Washington University and had been failed by the institution every step of the way when they finally decided to report the assaults. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Lori White responded with an op-ed about her experience as a survivor of sexual violence and her commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all students. Her support has been invaluable to the success of our movement.

The group of students who spontaneously began organizing in response to the flood of op-eds eventually took on the name Title Mine to represent the group’s dedication to reclaiming the rights guaranteed to students under Title IX. At a rally attended by over 1,000 Wash. U. students, staff, faculty and administrators, as well as local news organizations, Title Mine presented a list of demands to the administration meant to restore the dignity and safety of survivors of sexual violence on campus.

The administrative response to the rally was heartening. Former Chancellor Mark Wrighton approved six new full-time staff positions in counseling, education and prevention work related to sexual violence, an investment totaling over $600,000. Other changes included a contract with a 24-hour hotline for mental health crises after-hours and hiring two full-time education specialist positions to fulfill the Title Mine demand for increased availability of trauma-informed, inclusive support.

The majority of the first round of demands were met, with some ideas such as streamlining the school’s Title IX process and improving student understanding of the process requiring more detailed consideration.

The members of Title Mine are immensely proud of what we have worked to accomplish in the past year and a half, but data from the AAU Climate Survey shows that there is still significant sexual violence prevention work to be done on our campus. As many as 42.5% of undergraduate women experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by their 4th year at Washington University; a nearly 10% increase over our 2015 rate and 3.3% higher than the national average in 2019. In response to the data, Title Mine presented Chancellor Martin with a slate of new proposals in a meeting on Nov. 23, 2019.

We believe that all mandatory reporters of sexual violence should have mandatory training around compassionate student engagement. The first institutional response a student receives shapes the level of trust they have in the administration to effectively meet their needs. The lack of mandatory trauma-informed training perpetuates harm and breaks trust with a vulnerable student population.

We believe that there should be accountability mechanisms to ensure that all professors adhere to accommodations in a consistent, compassionate and trauma-informed way. Accommodations from Disability Resources, the RSVP Center, Title IX Office and the Habif Health and Wellness Center should carry equal weight, meaning they must be adhered to and professors should default to abiding by them, barring extenuating circumstances.

We believe that the administration should hold our sexual violence prevention programming, like “The Date” and “Rewind Blurred Lines,” to similarly rigorous standards as our academics. Experts in the RSVP Center should be tasked with publicizing learning objectives and hiring violence prevention professionals to comprehensively evaluate their programming. We also propose the integration of discussion spaces by gender and sexuality.

Lastly, we believe that Wash. U. should ensure that experiences of sexual violence are minimally disruptive to their students’ educational experience. Title Mine supports the significant expansion of mental health services and the hiring of counselors of underrepresented backgrounds to improve our current counselor-to-student ratio of approximately 1:1100. In the long run, the administration should commit to the physical expansion of Habif in order to accommodate the increased staff and student engagement. This would be funded by a combination of an increase to the student wellness fee, an increase in funding of the Central Fiscal Unit by each of Wash. U.’s colleges and an independent capital campaign to fund new infrastructure.

It may have been a year and a half since the rally, but survivors are still facing major problems right now. We can’t just forget about sexual assault on campus because it’s not convenient or interesting at the moment. Educate yourself. Get angry. Here are some action items if you’d like to opt-in to our movement:

Stay tuned for a more detailed breakdown of our proposals in future StudLife articles.
Give feedback to Title Mine any time using our anonymous feedback form.
Brace yourself for federal regulation changes from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Talk to your school’s dean about the value of mental health resources to your educational experience and why they should raise their prorate to pay for it.
Tell your program or department chair that you think all mandatory reporters should have to undergo mandatory training that reflects the sensitivity of their position before they engage with students in crisis!
Join Title Mine’s email list and apply next semester to join the Core Team to influence the future of Title IX policy at our school!!

Editor’s note:

The Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (S.A.R.A.H) provides confidential and anonymous support and can be reached at 314-935-8080 24/7 during the fall and spring academic semesters.

There are counselors at the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center, located in Seigle Hall, Suite 435, available confidentially to any University student. The office can be reached at 314-935-3445 or by email at [email protected].

The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-4673 or via online chat at https://hotline.rainn.org/online 24/7.

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