Graphic by Sam Papavasiliou

Flaws within Title IX risk students security and protection.

HSU student shares their experience of sexual assault from a non-student member within their club.

HSU student shares their experience of sexual assault from a non-student member within their club.

Title IX is a federal law protecting students from facing discrimination within any federally funded academic institution. Title IX prioritizes the significance of equal treatment of students, however, flaws in the investigation process leave some students feeling abandoned. 

David Hickcox is the Title IX coordinator at HSU. When the Title IX office conducts an investigation into a sexual assault, they’re required to remain impartial through the process.

“I think it’s human nature to want to assume that every person bringing a report is telling the truth,” Hickcox said. “In some cases, it’s pretty clear cut that the person accused is responsible for that behavior, but I can’t rush to judgment. I can’t start treating that person unfairly and not giving them access to advice.”

In a Title IX investigation, an investigator will be assigned to conduct interviews with the parties involved and witnesses willing to cooperate. They will also gather any relevant documentary evidence they can, including text messages, social media posts are collected. The investigator will then present the evidence to both parties, allowing for any questions, before writing up a report with their findings.

Prior to 2019, Title IX investigations were entirely done on paper by a single investigator. A CSU-wide policy change requires that all students be given access to a live-hearing, with the opportunity to question and respond to evidence used in the investigation before a finding is made.

In the case of non-students who participate in campus activities like rec-sports and clubs, the Title IX office has almost no jurisdiction as they’re only able to investigate students or staff members.

“I can’t compel a member of the community to come on the campus and talk to me and give me an interview statement,” Hickcox said. “I can with a student, because guess what, I can put a hold on your student account and you won’t be able to progress in your degree.”

An HSU student-member came forward, wishing to remain anonymous. They shared their experience of being sexually assaulted by a non-student club member and demanded accountability and reform within club policy to exclude non-student members from joining.

“I read through a couple of cases where it was pretty clear that the students had lost faith in the process, because it was taking so long.”

David Hickcox

Hickcox hasn’t found there to be a disproportionate number of sexual-misconduct cases coming from the clubs department, and doesn’t believe non-student members should be excluded.C

“I think that might be a bit like the sledgehammer on the fly,” Hickcox said. “But I think we could definitely target that behavior.”

Through auditing cases, Hickcox discovered the office wasn’t properly following through with several victims. He took his concerns to the HSU Chief of Staff.

“I read through a couple of cases where it was pretty clear that the students had lost faith in the process, because it was taking so long,” Hickcox said.

California State University executive order 1068 allows for non-students to become non-voting members of clubs on campus, provided they constitute less than 20 percent of each club. 

Molly Kresl is the office of student life coordinator and oversees the clubs department. Kresel says this is a prevalent issue that’s been happening at the CSU level for a while now, claiming non-student members pose a higher risk.

“It is because of push back from student groups who rely on their alumni and community members to support their events and outreach that we permit the 20 percent max non-student membership,” Kresl said.

It’s ultimately up to each club to allow or not allow non-students to become members. Kresl works with clubs to put together plans of action to address problematic non-student members. Students can obtain a no-contact-order against another student or non-student.

Under CSU executive order 1095, all campuses are required to have a survivors advocate – a person to whom students can confidentially report sexual-assault, without any obligation to report to the University.

Rather than hire a single advocate to work from within HSU, the University has been contracting the local North Coast Rape Crisis Team. The NCRCT provides victims with a 24-hour hotline, one-on-one counseling and general advocacy.

Paula Arrowsmith-Jones is the community outreach coordinator of the NCRCT. Her job is to hear, believe and support victims of sexualized-violence.

“Our services are available to any person of any age or gender,” Arrowsmith-Jones said. “Who has ever in their lifetime been impacted by some form of sexualized-violence.”

HSU’s Title IX office has recently been granted two new full-time positions, tripling the size of their department and expanding their opportunities to stop, remedy and prevent sexual misconduct on campus.

“No one should ever have to go through the betrayal and violation that an assault invokes,” Anonymous said. “It’s not just physical – it’s also an overt psychological trespass that forces you to question the entire relationship you thought you had with the person who assaulted you. It’s a form of injustice on the interpersonal level, a trickle-down of our society’s attitude and response toward sexual assault, and it needs to be addressed.”

Humboldt Domestic Violence Services24-hour crisis line: (707) 443-6042
North Coast Rape Crisis Team24-hour crisis line – (707) 445-2881
Humboldt County Mental Health720 Wood Street, Eureka, CA 24-hour crisis line – (707) 445-7715

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