Title IX Annual Report: 2020 Edition

Title IX

Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Under Title IX, sexual misconduct is considered a form of sex discrimination.

Our Commitment

At Florida Institute of Technology, we are committed to providing a safe, healthy, and inclusive learning environment for students, faculty, and staff. Our Title IX office administers Title IX policies and thoroughly investigates all Title IX complaints. We educate the campus about sexual misconduct. Additionally, we provide supportive resources to members of the campus community involved in Title IX matters.

Introduction

The goal of this report is to promote transparency regarding the prevalence of sexual misconduct reported by our community members. It is the hope of the Office of Title IX that this information will be used to educate the Florida Tech community on the impact of sexual misconduct, create an easy online reporting form, empower individuals to acknowledge and support one another and emphasize on the comprehensive resources available to serve and respond to the needs of our campus.

Title IX Team

Title IX Coordinator

Fanak Baarmand | Office of Title IX

Deputy Title IX Coordinator

Rodney Bowers | Dean of Students

Jacqueline Hetherington | Director of Residence Life

Jennifer Mercurio| Assoc. Athletic Director

Dr. Brian Lail | Professor

Kelsey Garrett | Administrative Assistant

Title IX Investigators

Bonnie Rinck | Security Sergeant

Jack Gordon | Security Officer

Title IX Advisors

Dr. Heidi Edwards |Assoc. Head School of Arts & Communication

Dr. Munevver Subasi |Dept. Head & Assoc. Professor Mathematical Sci.

Dr. Jessica Smeltz | Assistant Professor & Director ChemAdvCntr

Dr. Brooke Wheeler| Assistant Professor

Dr. Chiradeep Sen |Assistant Professor

Dr. Michael King | Associate Professor

Christina Lind | Compliance Training Specialist

Definitions

Complainant = Individual Alleged to be the Victim of Conduct That Could Constitute Sexual Harassment

Respondent = Individual Who Has Been Reported to Allegedly be the Perpetrator of Conduct That Could Constitute Sexual Harassment

Informal resolution = Anyone filing a complaint may choose to use the informal process. Assistance through this process may include providing the complainant with strategies for communicating with the offending party that their behavior is unwelcomed and should cease, or directing a Florida Tech official to inform the offending party to stop the unwelcomed conduct. Complainants may use this option before—or instead of—filing a formal complaint but is not required to do so.

Formal resolution = Once a formal written complaint is received, the Title IX office will evaluate the information and send a formal notification to both parties, and an investigation will take place followed by a hearing if the complaint is not resolved through informal resolution. After the hearing is complete, the hearing officer will objectively evaluate all relevant evidence collected during the investigation, together with testimony and nontestimonial evidence received at the hearing, and make a determination, based on the preponderance of the evidence, regarding whether a violation of Title IX has occurred.

In the event the hearing officer determines that the Respondent is responsible for violating this policy, the hearing officer will, prior to issuing a written decision, consult with an appropriate University official with disciplinary authority over the Respondent, and such an official will determine any discipline to be imposed.

Title IX Process Flow

  • Complainant Files a Report
    • Complainant Files a Report
      • Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Title IX Coordinator determines if policy applies. Discuss supportive measures and resources.
        • If Title IX Policy does not apply, one or more of the following may occur:
          • Complaint dismissed; both complainant & respondent notified
          • Complainant is referred to another department (e.g. Human Resources, Student Life)
        • If Title IX Policy applies, there are two resolution processes:
          • Formal Resolution
            1. The Title IX Coordinator will determine if a formal resolution process is appropriate, notify both parties about policy and procedures, and determine if interim measures are applicable.
            2. Title IX Coordinator will open an investigation and appoint an investigator who will interview the complainant, respondent, and any appropriate witnesses.
            3. An initial report will be created. The Complainant & Respondent will be given an opportunity to review the investigation report and provide/submit additional comments.
            4. Hearing procedure will commence. The hearing will provide an opportunity for the Complainant & Respondent to present their testimony. The parties require an advisor of their choice during the hearing.
            5. The hearing officer will determine if the policy has been violated and consult with an appropriate Uni. official with disciplinary authority over the Respondent who will determine any discipline to be imposed.
            6. The Title IX Coordinator will communicate a Notice of Outcome with investigative findings, any sanctioning imposed & information about the appeals process to the parties involved.
          • Informal Resolution
            • Title IX Coordinator will determine if an informal resolution process is appropriate & notify both parties.
              Note: Title IX Coordinator, Complainant & Respondent must all agree on the resolution method for Informal Resolution. The Informal Resolution process will not be used to resolve an allegation of sexual assault or allegation that a non-student employee sexually harassed a student.

Title IX Office Accomplishments

  • Established Title IX Office
    • The Title IX office was relocated and a new hierarchy was established to where the Title IX Coordinator now directly reports to the President

  • New Title IX Regulation
    • The Title IX policy was reviewed tediously and updated to the United States Department of Education standards where the policy applies to Sexual Harassment that occurs within the University’s education programs or activities and that is committed by an administrator, faculty member, staff, student, contractor, guest, or other members of the University community.

  • Implemented of Maxient System
    • A record-keeping online conduct software was implemented within the office that allowed for creation of forms and letters, established a workflow for cases, stored files in electronic cabinet, established restrictions to uphold confidentiality, etc.

  • Created Online Reporting Form
    • An online form was designed to report any and all Title IX offenses, streamlining the influx of cases in the Maxient system directly to the Title IX Coordinator allowing the office to keep track and organize incoming cases. The form also includes a direct link to the University's Title IX policy, on-campus confidential resources, off-campus support and services, and the ability (for students only) to anonymously report an incident.

  • Clery/Title IX Compliance
    • This past year 2020-2021, the Title IX Coordinator worked diligently to revamp the Title IX office to ensure complete compliance with Clery and Title IX standards. This influenced the formation of a Title IX Committee.

  • Added critical Title IX information to student applications as well as employee job postings.

  • Posted all Title IX training and content on University's Title IX Website

  • Created Nondiscrimination Policy for Non-Title IX Cases
    • Complaints of sexual violence and other forms of sexual misconduct that fall outside the scope of the Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy will be addressed through this policy as a form of sex discrimination.

  • Constructed Title IX Website
    • The website was created to centralize all information in an easily accessible location for all University individuals. The website houses the reporting form, support resources and services, policies, required training, FAQs, the Title IX team, and the Title IX flow chart of procedures.

  • Improved Title IX Resource Guide
    • The guide was created to introduce and explain information pertaining to Title IX that may not be common knowledge to all. The guided discusses the complainant's confidentiality/privacy, investigative options available, etc.

  • Created Title IX Brochure
    • The brochure takes the Title IX policy and breaks it down by sections discussing the Rights, Responsibilities and Responses in handling incidents. Furthermore, there is helpful information for respondents and complainants, definitions of offenses, explanation of the grievance process, and the role of those involved and the university.

  • Developed Title IX Syllabus Statement
    • Professor's addition
      • "Please note that as your professor, I am required to report any incidents to the Title IX Coordinator. If you wish to speak to an employee who does not have this reporting responsibility, please contact the Student Counseling Center at 321-674-8050."
    • The full statement can be found at: https://www.fit.edu/title-ix/resources/syllabus-statement/

Title IX Office Training & Education

In addition to the training mentioned above within the Office of Title IX, the Title IX Coordinator worked with FICURMA to allow collaboration with the SUNY Student Conduct Institute. SUNY SCI provides training in higher education on how to fairly and equitably investigate and adjudicate conduct violations and disclosures. Those individuals trained were:

  • The Title IX Coordinator and Team
  • The Deputy Title IX Coordinators
  • The Investigators
  • The Advocates
  • The Decision Makers

SCI members access real time and asynchronous digital trainings, a comprehensive casebook, and model policies and resources. Training topics include due process, trauma-informed investigations and adjudications, questioning and weighing of evidence, and other crucial best practices in the investigation and conduct process that comply with case law, Title IX, the Clery Act, and other relevant federal and state laws.

In the Office of Title IX, the Title IX Coordinator researched and coordinated with Vector Training company and FICURMA to established trainings for all University individuals such as faculty, staff, and students. The Title IX Coordinator was able to partner with FICURMMA and Vector to negotiate a discount for Florida Tech.

The newly established training allowed for the comprehensive and coherent education for the following positions as related to the Title IX procedures, regulations and their responsibilities:

  • The Title IX Coordinator
  • The Deputy Title IX Coordinators
  • The Investigators
  • The Advocates
  • The Decision Makers
  • Executive VP & Provost
  • VP of Student & Alumni Affairs
  • Housing Director
  • VP of Housing and Campus Services
  • Director of Student Involvement 

The key focus area of these training include: bystander intervention, prevention & awareness, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Title IX concepts include the federal definition of sexual harassment, the scope of application to the school’s education programs or activities, and the grievance process including investigations, hearings,  . . .  appeals, and informal resolution, among other topics. The training is as follows:

  • Level 1: Higher Education Annual Clery training and Into to Title IX Basics (March 8, 2021)
  • Level 2: Higher Education Title IX Decision-maker Training (February 11, 2021)
  • Level 2: Higher Education Title IX Informal Resolution Facilitator Training (March 11, 2021)
  • Level 2: Higher Education Title IX Investigator Training (February 8, 2021)
  • Level 2: Higher Education Title IX Coordinator Training (January 14, 2021)
  • Title IX Guidance (July 22, 2021)

Title IX Campus-Wide Training Courses

In addition to the training within the Office of Title IX, required training was created for students to complete to be in compliance. To allow for equitable access for all types and levels of student, the Office of Title IX partnered with Vivid Learning System to provide compliance courses of many varieties. Of the many courses available, there is a key focus on the following:

  • Sexual Violence Prevention- Undergraduate Students
  • Sexual Violence Prevention- Graduate Students
  • Sexual Violence Prevention- Nontraditional Students
  • Bystander Intervention
  • Sexual Violence Prevention Essentials for Athletes (NCAA)
  • Title IX Essentials- International Students
  • Alcohol and Other Drugs

Privacy and Support

Confidentiality means that personally identifying information (names or information that directly or indirectly identifies the individuals involved in the incident) shared by an individual with designated campus or community professionals cannot be revealed to any other individual without the express permission of the individual unless there are circumstances posing an imminent risk of harm to self or others.

Community members wishing to seek completely confidential assistance may do so by speaking with professionals who are mandated by law to protect the confidentiality of a disclosure. On-campus, these professionals include the counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the medical staff at Holzer Student Health Center, and Religious Advisers.

When a report involves suspected abuse of a minor under the age of 18, all employees, including these confidential resources are required by state law to notify local law enforcement.

Privacy generally means that information related to a report of misconduct will only be shared with a limited circle of individuals. The use of this information is limited to those university employees who “need to know” in order to assist in the active review, investigation, or resolution of the report. While not bound by confidentiality, these individuals will be discreet and respect the privacy of all individuals involved in the process.

Any other university employee who is not designated as a confidential resource is required to share a report of sexual misconduct with the Title IX coordinator or deputy Title IX coordinator. This team, led by the Title IX coordinator, will conduct an initial assessment of the conduct, the complainant’s desired course of action, and the necessity for any interim remedies or accommodations to protect the safety of the complainant or the community. The goal is to eliminate any hostile environment.

Title IX Programs and Initiatives

Created Engage Profile

Student Life activated the ENGAGE platform to increase communication with students and provide a user-friendly experience to get more students participating in campus life. Within the system, Title IX has a page for students that gives them the ease of accessing any pertinent information regarding Title IX, providing resources and direct them to the university page for further information 

Call to Action: It's on US @ Florida Tech

  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month events in April
    • Light the Sky for Sexual Assault Awareness
    • Celebration of Pride: Loving the Skin You're In
    • Walk to END Sexual Violence & Candlelight Vigil
    • Donation Collection for Women's Center

  • Campus-Wide Presentations from Title IX Coordinators
    • Undergraduate Orientation
    • Residence Life 101
    • RA Training

Case Summary

Table 1. incidents Reported to the Title IX office from May 15, 2020-May 14, 2021

Prohibited Conduct ReportedNumber
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment 
Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment
Sexual Assault    14 
Domestic Violence 
Dating Violence 2
Stalking 5
Sexual Discrimination 0
Retaliatory Harassment 0

Goals for 2021-2022

  1. Increase Programming and Training for Drug & Alcohol and Sexual Violence Prevention, on top of adding the following courses.
    • Diversity Awareness: This course provides students with an awareness of how a diverse student body, faculty , and staff members strengthen a campus, providing tools to ensure that diversity is embraced on campus.
    • Email and Messaging Safety: Email is the primary means of attack from cyber-perpetrators. This course provides an overview of cybercrime via email, and how to employ safe email and messaging practices to avoid and help prevent cyber threats, attempts at fraud and identity theft.
  2. Increase Collaboration with Student Life, Student Wellness, and Human Resources
    • Look into implementation of offering meditation sessions, yoga sessions, and any other programs that alleviate and/or help to manage one's anxieties when it comes to sensitive topics such as sexual assault
  3. Partner with Women's Center
    • The office wishes to increase collaboration with the Women's Center so that University individuals are made more aware of the resources that are available to them on and off campus
    • Request guest speakers to give talks on campus regarding topics relating to Women's center and the connection to Title IX allowing for a stronger, more active outreach that is accessible to all individuals
  4. Partner with Counseling Center
    • Look into implementation in offering generalized sessions for individuals who may need a more intensive approach when dealing with their anxieties, concerns, etc. regarding sensitive topics such as sexual assault.
  5. Partner with the Athletics Department
    • The office wishes to increase collaboration with the Athletics Department to expand gender equality with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
  6. Partner with the Security Department
    • Actively make students, faculty, and staff aware of the trainings that are offered to them that helps provide a safe and secure learning environment, in addition to lectures and programs such as the following:
      • Active Shooter / Hostile Intruder Training
      • Front Desk / Office Safety
      • Suspicious Activity See Something / Say Something
      • Identity Theft Prevention
      • Personal Safety Awareness
      • Fire Safety / Building Marshal
      • Bystander Intervention
      • Internet Safety
      • Drug and Alcohol Awareness
    • Allow for purposeful collaboration of these lectures and programs with the required and/or optional training offered by our compliance library of courses
  7. Implement Climate Surveys
    • These surveys can provide an in-depth profile of the university community’s particular strengths, as well as areas for improvement. With the survey, you can quickly and accurately assess student, employee, and school personnel perceptions in order to get the data that's needed to make informed decisions for lasting improvement.
  8. Research RAINN and their capabilities to determine if a future partnership will benefit the University's Title IX Office
    • RAINN is a leader in providing comprehensive sexual assault training for professionals and volunteers nationwide. Building off of an in-depth training program for RAINN’s support specialists, they provide training services for companies and organizations. As subject matter experts, RAINN offers several pieces of training that engage, educate, and prepare adult learners to support survivors of sexual assault.