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December 2017


Avoid becoming the subject of a Title IX complaint
Kevin McCoy


Title IX offers much needed protection to students, faculty and staff—and our members should know how to avoid becoming the subject of a Title IX complaint.

As mentioned in Dante’s grievance officer update, there have been an alarming number of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying complaints made against faculty this semester. Most of these complaints have been made against adjuncts.  

These complaints are handled by the college’s Title IX office. Getting a letter from the Title IX office is not pleasant, especially for an adjunct faculty member who may not have close relationships to faculty in their departments. 

The FA is here to support you and answer questions that you may have.  Either Dante as grievance officer and/or I as adjunct coordinator will accompany you to all meetings and will make sure that your due process rights are protected. 

Here are some steps you can take to avoid Title IX complaints:

  • It is important to develop rapport with your students and try to create a comfortable learning environment. However, you should never forget that you are in a position of authority. As such, you should recognize that students might take a comment as a form of coercion.

  • One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is mentoring and developing meaningful relationships with students. When developing these relationships, choose your words and behaviors carefully to lessen the chances that students will misinterpret the attention that you are giving them.

  • When you are with a student, make sure that you keep your classroom or office door open. If a student indicates that a conversation requires the utmost confidentiality, it may be wise to direct them to the campus counseling center.   

  • Do not discuss the student’s personal life unless the student brings it up.

  • Do not make jokes or off-handed comments that involve sex or gender or make comments that can be interpreted as singling out any particular protected group (based on race/ethnicity, nationality, gender, religious beliefs, etc.).

  • Make sure that your classroom conversations are related to your discipline. Faculty should not avoid issues that are controversial or issues that may make students uncomfortable; however, discussions should be related to the subject you are teaching and the conversations should be respectful.

Title IX offers much needed protection to students, faculty and staff. Some may perceive that, taken to the extreme, Title IX has the possibility of having a chilling effect on academic freedom, since some of the complaints this year were the result of students disagreeing with the course content or class discussions.

We must never lose sight that college mission statement includes the promotion of intellectual discovery and social/ethical awareness, but by adhering to the advice above, hopefully we can avoid misunderstandings and Title IX complaints.