Tennessee Holds Title IX Listening Session

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


An independent commission tasked with examining Title IX policies at the University of Tennessee met with faculty, staff and students behind closed doors Monday at the Knoxville campus.

The visit by the Title IX Commission is part of a review process initiated by UT President Joe DiPietro in the aftermath of a $2.48 million lawsuit settled by the university last summer over allegations of fostering a "hostile sexual environment" on campus.

"I think it's important," said Kylie Ronnow, a sophomore who attended the Title IX "listening session," which was closed to the public. "The main concern I heard was making sure everybody gets equal treatment and then also the alcohol, consent and what really is consent. Those were sort of the overall topics."

The roughly hour-long session included the four attorneys who make up the commission getting feedback from faculty, staff and students.

Because the commission was hired by UT's president rather than appointed by the board of trustees, its meetings are not subject to open meetings laws, according to the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, unless the commission would choose to do so in order to gain public feedback. Monday's listening session was billed in a campus newsletter as an opportunity to gain feedback from the campus community, but was not open to the general public.

A public report on the findings of the commission is expected to be released later this spring.

Paige Shimer, another UT student who attended Monday's session, said afterwards there was a lot of discussion about issues related to sexual assault, alcohol policy and relationship violence, and how students can apply that information to their daily lives.

Shimer also said she has personally experienced stalking and has gone through the process of reporting it on campus.

"My situation is fairly settled at this point, but I feel better knowing it's been talked about," she said. "Stalking in particular isn't often talked about either on this campus or in general, and the laws and policies are very unclear on it. I think being able to get out here today and say, 'Hey, this is an issue,' is really helpful."

Members of the commission include: Washington, D.C., attorney Stanley Brand; Elizabeth Conklin, University of Connecticut Title IX coordinator and Office of Institutional Equity associate vice president; Janet Judge, Sports Law Associates president; and Nashville-area attorney Bill Morelli. All declined to comment after Monday's session.

The federal Title IX lawsuit settled in July accused UT of mishandling sexual assault cases, especially accusations against student-athletes, but the university admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

In addition to a list of "Title IX enhancements" to be implemented by the university, the settlement also resulted in the creation of seven positions to provide education on the issue of sexual assaults, including two in athletics.

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March 28, 2017


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