On Friday, College of Oregon employees and students met with Representative Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, to talk about changes to Title IX, the federal law regarding sex discrimination in schools, and how the recent Supreme Court decision regarding abortion could affect campuses. .
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now due to the Supreme Court’s opinion and laws that vary from state to state, and our colleges, universities, and students need clarity,” said Bonamici.
About a dozen people, including university and college Title IX coordinators, joined Bonamici at the roundtable, which took place on the downtown campus of Portland State University.
Although the right to reproductive health care, such as abortion, is currently protected in Oregon, university officials and students still have concerns about the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Earlier this summer, the US Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX, with the goal of strengthening protections for students and defining new protections for LGBTQ students. Last month, Bonamici led 60 other members of Congress to send a letter to the Education Department asking for more details on those protections. She had no news.
“Title IX has long protected against discrimination and harassment on the basis of pregnancy and related conditions, and related conditions include termination of pregnancy,” Bonamici said. “The new regulations specify that the rules also address recovery time after pregnancy termination, but you layer the patchwork of state laws around abortion rights, and that leaves a lot of students in limbo. …there are just a lot of unanswered questions right now.
Bonamici brought together students and college administrators to discuss some of the questions and concerns they have for their campuses as the new school year approaches.
Several have raised concerns about student privacy, as proposed rule changes could require employees to report any cases of sexual misconduct or pregnancy directly to a school’s Title IX department.
“How can we make sure that we create protections to make sure that we also center students, center their privacy, their autonomy, and we hold them accountable?” Becky Bangs, director of investigations at Oregon State University and deputy Title IX coordinator, said Friday. “One of the things in Title IX [proposed changes] Made me a bit concerned about reporting obligations at the Title IX office.
The right to an abortion in Oregon is protected. But Bangs said she was worried about students from other states. She fears the records could be used against students if a college keeps track of who reported pregnancies.
Others echoed these privacy concerns, saying mandatory reporting could create a “chilling effect” on students, discouraging them from seeking help and leaving them unaware of available resources.
“Many students speak to the professors in particular in the hope that the professors will keep this conversation going and keep it private,” said Nicole Commissiong, associate vice president, civil rights officer and Title IX coordinator for the University of the University. ‘Oregon.
Commissiong said that under current university policies, faculty members are not required to report any cases of sexual misconduct or pregnancy to the Title IX office, and the university wants it to remain that way. .
“I think mandatory reporting would create a lot of barriers for students to access the services they need,” Commissiong said.
Students agreed that the prospect of mandatory reporting might deter them from contacting college staff.
“I would definitely say talking to friends and classmates as we start the new semester, the fear of having to show up and having to go to an institution and go through the whole process – that’s a scary thing for a lot of students, and that would be a big concern,” said Olivia Murray Ceriello, a student at the University of the Pacific at Bonamici. “At the end of the day, it’s our rights, our needs and our wants and making sure that’s respected and valued as we go through this – that’s really helpful.”
Portland State Assistant Vice President for Equity and Compliance Becca Lawrence said one thing every higher education institution will need is more resources.
Lawrence noted that PSU has a resource center for students with children that helps her office with pregnancy accommodations.
“For universities to really provide comprehensive services and support students, there needs to be a bit more shifting of resources and priorities to support students in this way, because it’s not as simple as having a process” , said Lawrence. “And often government mandates and decrees go unfunded.”
Representatives from other universities said resources such as multicultural centers, women’s centers and LGBTQ resource centers can also help provide guidance to students, but not all schools in the state have this. infrastructure.
“Listening to our great public schools, I find myself…kind of spinning here. We are not ready to be able to provide childcare and family care services as a small institution of 4,000 students,” said Laura Stallings, director of the University of Peaceful. “I continue to understand how important it is to have legislation so that we can motivate institutions to be able to invest in the areas we need to support our students. It’s like which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
College administrators said certain types of students may face problems more directly than others. Some examples that were cited were students at Oregon Health and Science University who are studying obstetrics and gynecology and can then work in different states, or students at the Oregon Institute of Technology Oregon doing internships that could travel to abortion-banning states.
Bonamici said she hopes the US Department of Education will address some of those concerns when it responds to the letter from her and other members of Congress.
“Everyone who lives in the United States is going to be affected in some way,” Bonamici said. “Lack of access to adequate reproductive health care affects educational opportunities. It affects career results. This affects earning potential, and there are disparate effects on black, brown, and low-income students. It’s pretty clear.
Bonamici encouraged roundtable participants to send their concerns directly to the Department of Education as the department seeks public comment on its proposed changes to Title IX.