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February 16, 2017
Nicholls State University’s Dean of Student Services, Michele Caruso, assured campus Title IX compliance after the new secretary of education sparked controversy at her confirmation hearing on her positioning on campus sexual assault regulations.
When asked if she would uphold the 2011 Title IX guidance as it relates to campus sexual assault, Betsy Devos said it was too “premature” for her to answer. Title IX is an official guidance on sex discrimination stating that colleges and universities have to play a role in fighting sexual assault on campus. It also covers areas such as stalking, relationship violence and sexual harassment.
Nicholls State is in compliance with Title IX and is closely watching to see if any changes come up in the near future. Caruso explained that every victim needs to be aware of their resources and options if ever confronted with violent behavior.
“We hear about our students immensely and want to make sure everybody is as safe as possible,” said Caruso. “When things do happen, we want to make sure everybody’s needs are met as much as possible so that they can heal from the situation and continue their education and meet all their goals in life.”
The university faculty is trained under Title IX so that they understand what their roles and obligations are. Their training covers how to recognize signs that a student may be a victim of abuse, who to call, where to go and how to help them. The last training was held at the end of 2016.
Most of the debate around Title IX requirements is focused on rape cases, however the federal law also requires schools to address dating violence.
“Historically it’s been a problem that people see [dating violence] as a private issue, family issue or couple issue, but that’s what helped the abusers to keep up the abuse,” Caruso said. “They knew they wouldn’t have any accountability for it and people would stay hush about it. It’s time to shed some light on it. That person is responsible for their abusive behavior and the victim does not deserve it. We are going to get that person the help that they need.”
Title IX gives a specific outline of several requirements that must be included in a school’s procedures in responding to sexual violence. This includes an investigation if evidence indicates and supports the possibility of a sexual violence occurrence. Also, there must be policies for confidential reporting.
Student services and Thibodaux police work closely together for these situations. However, Caruso said that if something were to happen, a person could get services, resources and help even if they do not want to file a police report. Filing an official legal report is not a requirement.
“The welfare of our students is of the utmost concern,” said Caruso.
Nicholls is also in compliance with the Clery Act. This requires colleges and universities to disclose campus safety information,and imposes certain basic requirements for handling incidents of sexual violence in emergency situations. Campus police gives an annual report of crime statistics, which is open to the public for viewing. This can be found at www.nicholls.edu/police.
Caruso explained how students and faculty have a responsibility to alert student services or the police if they come across any situation involving violent behavior.
“We want people to know, especially victims and survivors, that they’re not alone,” said Caruso. “There is nothing for them to be ashamed of. There are resources on this campus specifically designed to help them with their healing process and to help them stay in school and whatever other needs they have.”