Recap of UMB Town Hall for Graduate Students on Title IX
Many of you are familiar with the recent article about sexual harassment happening in the hospital. This has led to UMB forming a Title IX and Sexual Harassment Task Force with the goal of identifying gaps in the Title IX policy and addressing them. It is meant to serve as a “short term” task force to quickly address and improve this issue. In fact, the graduate school’s own Niv Hegdekar is serving as a student representative on the task force.
One of the first steps of the task force was to learn what is needed from the students. To address this issue the administration held a UMB Town Hall specifically for the Graduate School on March 26th that I had the pleasure of attending. While it was frustrating to see just a small crowd of 11 people (including those running the town hall) it gave the opportunity for an intimate discussion.
Dr. Perman began by stating he has recently had to learn the value of reporters remaining anonymous. While it may be obvious to people like me that there is a fear of repercussions, for the administration it is just a frustration of not being able to ask follow up questions. Luckily through town halls like this one administrators are given the opportunity to better understand the importance of anonymity.
During this meeting we took time to discuss how Title IX affects specifically PhD students differently. 1) We work much closer with faculty than arguably any other professional school. 2) We are here much longer than any other students. If we have a problem with someone, it is rare that we can just “hold out” until the semester is over. We will likely interact with them for years. 3) In some ways, our repercussions can be greater. What if the person in question is your program director or your mentor? They directly hold power over both your day to day life and your ability to graduate. Finally, 4) we are the only students who are also mandatory reporters. It is why earlier this year we had to take both the student and employee training sessions so we could know when and how to report instances.
While we had time to inform the administration on issues we have, there was also a chance for us to learn more about the Title IX office. We discussed a new written policy, that is currently going through the necessary offices for approval, that would mandate disclosure of any consensual relationships between students and faculty. I became aware that anonymous complaints can be submitted through a third party. We learned that if you do report an issue, no legal action has to be taken. Title IX officer Mikhel Kushner told us that they “never want a reporter to be surprised by what my office does.” The reporter holds the power and can tell the office what they want done about it. Actions can range from simply filing a report, to discussing options, or having Title IX mediate a discussion. They can also help with past traumas/events as well even if they didn’t occur on campus.
We also learned how anonymous tips can be submitted. They are given through a 3rd party by calling 866-594-5220 to avoid anyone being able to track it back to you. But that also means they can’t call you to help resolve the issue or get additional needed information. This can only be done if you keep your PIN (which can’t be reset) and remember to check back.
Finally, we covered how to address the issue with those who were not at the meeting. We interact not only with faculty, but with staff, research assistants, lab managers, interns, and post-docs. Often cultural differences can cause extra confusion. There is a hope that this information will continue to be spread to the rest of the graduate school community, possibly through journal clubs or seminars.
If you ever need to report or discuss any Title IX related issues, no matter how small, please contact Mikhel Kushner at email@example.com 410-706-2281 at any time. Remember it is silence that permits harmful actions to continue. There will be an additional campus wide listening session on April 24th.