Title IX Office Hosts Open House
Liberty University’s Title IX office held a Q&A event Thursday, Nov. 11, open to all students to learn more about the university’s process for responding to reports of sexual misconduct.
Beginning in August, the Title IX office teamed up with the Student Government Association (SGA) to plan events on campus where students could learn more about Liberty’s policies. They later met with Jonathan Falwell, and they decided to host a campus-wide Q&A with an announcement in Convocation to advertise the event.
The 2-hour event had about 40 people in attendance. The Director of the Title IX office, Nathan Hopkins, informed the audience that, while they could not discuss pending litigation, student records or the recently announced Board of Trustees review, students could ask any question about the office’s policies and procedures.
Hopkins said he felt that the event was a success, and hopes it results in an ongoing dialogue with students.
“It’s a topic that is on everyone’s mind, and the Q&A was a unique opportunity for students to speak directly with our office in an open forum,” Hopkins said. “I know we weren’t able to answer all their questions, but we’re here to help, and I hope some of the information we provided brought clarity.”
“We had a great opportunity to talk about the complaint process from beginning to end,” he added. “We addressed what an investigation actually looks like, including new regulations that require a live hearing. Liberty University has designated resources to hire an independent third-party to oversee the hearing. The most important information we shared is that the students are in the driver’s seat when it comes to this process.”
Also on the panel from the Title IX Office were Investigators Sarah Mahle and Erika Woolfolk. They work with students to provide supportive measures and connect them with resources. This includes coordinating campus resources in both academics and housing to ensure that a student is getting the proper care and focus on all sides of campus life.
“I was glad that students were able to meet Sarah and Erika; they meet with students everyday and are very passionate about serving students,” Hopkins said.
This Q&A format created an atmosphere that gave the students a connection with the Title IX staff in a very public way, though one moment that revealed underlying tension was when a student stood up and asked those in attendance how many had lost faith in the Title IX office. Several students raised their hands.
A variety of questions were addressed during the Q&A, but the university’s Title IX’s amnesty policy was a recurring theme. Responding to the concern that the university will fine students for Liberty Way violations when they report a sexual assault, the Title IX office reiterated that students will not be fined or punished for student conduct violations such as premarital sex or the consumption of alcohol. The Title IX office emphasized that fear of getting in trouble should never deter a student from speaking up and that the university prioritizes the reporting of sexual assault.
Finally, the Title IX office sought to reassure all students present that, because due process of law requires that there is no outside interference in a sexual assault investigation, there is a fair and safe process that treats everyone at Liberty University with dignity and respect.
For any more information on Liberty University’s Title IX policies, students can visit: www.liberty.edu/title-ix/.