As Title IX turns 50, Equity and Access Services promotes a human-centered approach to meeting student needs
“As we mark this anniversary, I hope we will continue to embody our mission as One VCU by fostering a culture of respect, accessibility and opportunity for all.” President Micheal Rao, June 23, 2022
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 turns 50 today, June 23rd. Title IX changed the landscape of American education by prohibiting sex discrimination in education. Consistent with this commitment, VCU prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in its educational programs or activities, and prohibits such discrimination by members of the university community. (VCU’s Title IX Sexual Harassment policy is located here).
Situated in VCU’s Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success (IES) is Equity and Access Services (EAS), home to the Title IX office. Title IX, the landmark law, is known for effecting the most change in collegiate sports. But Title IX protections are also referenced in programs and activities off the athletics field. Title IX is constantly evolving as it seeks to serve and include protections for everyone in higher education.
As with many situations where laws are required to be interpreted and applied, the Title IX process includes procedures and legalese, which some may find challenging. What sets VCU apart from other institutions is the intentional approach: human-centered, with an equity lens, and a holistic understanding that each student has a unique lived experience. This approach makes Title IX accessible to all.
Malorie Yeaman, who joined VCU in May 2021, is the Title IX coordinator & director of outreach and support. Yeaman says there are a variety of tools and approaches that her office uses in order to stop and resolve allegations of misconduct under the policy. “Title IX at VCU is here to support members of the VCU community through supportive measures, assistance connecting with resources, and various resolutions available through applicable policies and procedures,” Yeaman explains.
Yeaman adds that she and her team are open to speaking with anyone at VCU about their Title IX situation. “Members of the Title IX office are available to meet with students, visitors, or employees who have experienced prohibited conduct,” she says, “And we are available to speak with anyone who has questions about VCU policies, training or other assistance they may need.”
At VCU, the most common approach to resolution is the investigative process. This process applies to cases where domestic, dating or sexual violence occurs, for example. With this type of case, a trained Title IX investigator follows up with the parties and any witnesses identified during the investigation. The investigator develops a comprehensive timeline and narrative using the facts gathered during the interview process. At its conclusion, the matter may go to a hearing panel, depending on the policy. This hearing panel typically includes trained VCU faculty and staff. Following a decision by the hearing panel, each party has a right to appeal.
At VCU there are multiple resolution options available. The parties in a case have to agree to participate in an informal resolution process; otherwise, the matter goes through the formal resolution process.
Restorative or transformative justice options provide a safe way to informally resolve non-violent Title IX concerns: the parties can express what justice or being made whole looks like for them. The parties also benefit from being heard in a manner that brings healing or restoration. EAS is providing training on restorative and transformative justice to members of the IE Council (VCU campus diversity, equity and inclusion officers). VCU faculty and staff trained in informal resolution methods are also invited to serve as mediators.
“Our expert civil rights team facilitates an environment that is fair and equitable for all parties,” says Cleopatra Magwaro, associate vice president of institutional equity and interim ADA coordinator. Magwaro leads EAS and assumed her role in January 2021.
Magwaro’s human-centered philosophy has evolved VCU’s approach to more equitably and effectively address civil rights. “This is a ‘next practices’ approach,” she says. In referring to her EAS colleagues, Magwaro said, “Our team is often called upon to resolve cases in which students have a diverse level of comprehension of concepts such as consent, healthy relationships, sexuality and sexual orientation, and are also exploring their own identities. Our approach is to foster an environment where individuals feel psychologically safe, and trust the process.”
Other supportive aspects of the EAS approach includes a virtual format for resolutions. Also, EAS will soon move to a new physical environment. The offices at Grace Street Center include a gender inclusive bathroom, lactation and reflection space, and emphasize an intentionally welcoming space for anyone seeking civil rights resources and resolutions.
Magwaro and her team bring diverse expertise and lived experiences to the 50-year-old Title IX space. Their human-centered approach goes beyond removing barriers to equal opportunity by reaching for next practices that serve the VCU community.
“The Richmond region, of which VCU is such an integral part, is well-known for being a welcoming and open community,” says Magwaro. “My hope is that in the next 50 years, VCU students, employees and alumni will pay forward the human-centered approach to transforming lives, wherever they find themselves. EAS is committed to leaving VCU transformed and better– now and for future generations.”
Visit equity.vcu.edu to learn more.
June 23, 2022 update: The Biden administration has released a notice of proposed rule-making for Title IX. Learn more about the proposal.