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Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

From Kesha to Title IX at College Campuses

03.15.16


Kristen Amrhein


Recently, rumors have been circulating that Sony Music Entertainment is dropping music producer Dr. Luke in response to the controversy over pop artist Kesha’s law suit accusing him of sexual assault and verbal and emotional abuse.


Unfortunately, these rumors have proved to be false: Dr. Luke’s contract with Sony is still active but will expire in early 2017. Rolling Stone reported that Dr. Luke’s attorney has issued a statement saying, “Luke has an excellent relationship with Sony. His representatives are in regular contact with executives at the highest levels at Sony and this [Luke’s firing from Sony] has never come up.” Sony has declined to make a statement.


There is no difference between the assault Kesha has faced and the assaults that students face, although the circumstances are vastly different. Hartwick College Title IX Coordinator Traci Perrin has answered a few questions on the link between Title IX assault cases on college campuses and Kesha’s lawsuit.


Question: What is your view of the Kesha case? Have you heard of similar cases in the media or within your line of work?


Answer: The Kesha case is very different from [a] Title IX case, but yes, there have been other high profile harassment lawsuits over the years in the entertainment industry and in business. The difference is that Title IX is a gender equity law under the US Department of Education and is not the same as Title VII under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US Department of Labor.


Title IX provides protection against gender-based discrimination including sexual harassment. Kesha has a recording contract, which requires her to perform on specific obligations. She is in essence an independent contractor working for herself and generally must demonstrate and win the opinion of the court on the harassment before she can get out of her contract.


Q: Do you think that imbalances of power an authority among students, faculty, and staff could reproduce a Kesha-like situation on a college campus?  


A: Certainly an imbalance of power or quid pro quo harassment can happen in an educational setting, but Tile IX (for all parties) and Title VII (for employees) factors in. This type of harassment is not only a violation of these civil rights laws, but also a violation of Hartwick College policy. Protections and procedures are in place to address the harassment. Unlike Kesha, no one is contractually required to stay. In addition to protections under law and campus policy; any employee, student, or guest may remove themselves from the hostile environment.


Q: What could a student do or to whom could they talk if they found themselves in such a situation?


A: A student should report the situation to the Title IX Coordinator, Traci Perrin, or any of the following responsible employee administrators. [A complete list with contact information can be found on page 3.]

The student will be advised of the College’s policy and procedures, the rights of all parties, and steps going forward the possible outcomes. Efforts are taken to protect the complainant and remedy the situation. Retaliatory behavior is prohibited.


For example: According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Federal law protects employees from retaliation when employees complain -  either internally or to an outside body like the EEOC - about workplace discrimination or harassment. That’s true even if the claim turns out to be unfounded, as long as it was made in good faith.


Q: When was Title IX created, and when did it come to Hartwick? Why does there need to be an on-campus coordinator for the law? Why is it different than other sort of policies on campus?


A: Title IX was enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and applied to all schools receiving federal funding (federal funding includes financial aid). Guidance concerning harassment of students was published in the Federal Register in 1996. Additional guidance was published as a Dear Colleague Letter from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in 2001. Continued reports and rise in campus sexual assaults prompted additional guidance, which required the designation of a Title IX Coordinator for each educational institution in 2011. Also, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 and subsequent amendments have clarified the inclusion of stalking, domestic and dating violence, and spelled out training requirements and reporting requirements under the Clery Act.


Title IX is different from the laws related to Kesha’s case in that it is an administrative action rather than a court action and must afford equity in the process for both parties.  Title IX looks at a preponderance of the evidence (what is more likely than not).  It is very important that the whole campus work in coordination to address gender discrimination in all forms related to all parties (students, employees, visitors, etc.) whether on or off campus.  Title IX is not about an annual report; rather, it is about educating about, preventing, stopping and remedying incidents of gender based discrimination.


“Dear Colleague Letters” are used to encourage others to cosponsor, support, or oppose a bill. They are additionally used to inform Members and their offices about events connected to congressional business.


Q: Is Title IX exclusive to women? What would you say to men who have complaints or who feel they can’t come forward?


A: No, Title IX is not exclusive to women. It is about gender bias, so it applies to anyone who is being discriminated against or harassed because of their gender. Gender discrimination should be reported whether male or female, regardless of gender preference.


Q: In the media, Kesha is often portrayed as a brainless party girl, a depiction that warps the suffering and experience of someone who’s gone through assault. Have such portrayals of assault victims changed since Title IX was enacted?


A: It is changing. [The] bottom line is that no one asks for harassment. New York’s affirmative consent law and Enough is Enough make clear that all parties must knowingly be in agreement. Where a person is, what they are wearing, and what they may be doing, do not convey consent. Continued education will enable students and employees alike to understand and recognize the nature of harassment, its impacts and when it occurs in their own behavior and that of others.


Enough is Enough (EIE) is a non-profit organization that emerged in 1994 as the national leader to make the Internet safer for children and families.


Q: Kesha seems to have the monetary, verbal, and physical support of thousands of fans and fellow celebrities. How can a student support another student who has been harassed or is going through the process of revealing or suing their harasser?


A: The best support is given by listening, believing, and assisting the individual in seeking appropriate medical or mental health care and making a report. Otherwise; when you see or hear harassing behavior, give the targeted person a way out or speak out against the harassment. We can all be responsible bystanders.


Q: Is it better to come forward about a

n issue or to leave it alone and gradually wait out the experience (or, in Kesha’s case, the contract)?

A: It is better to speak up and report the incident. While one individual may be able to wait a situation out, the behavior will likely continue toward another person. No one should be expected to tolerate a discriminatory and hostile environment. While investigations cannot be confidential, they are discrete.


Q: Is there anything you would like to add about the Title IX policies on Hartwick’s campus, or further information you’d like to give regarding who student should speak with when faced with assault and harassment situations?

A: The College’s policy entitled “Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment & Sexual Misconduct is readily available on line at www2.hartwick.edu/sexdiscrimination.  This policy applies to all students, faculty and employees of the College.


All individuals on campus should be aware that the Title IX Coordinator, Traci Perrin, is located in Shineman 104 and is available to take a report directly; however, reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct may be submitted to any of the following individuals:


Title IX Coordinator, Traci Perrin, 431-4293 or perrint@hartwick.edu

Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Kim Fierke, Director of Athletics, 431-4702 or fierkek@hartwick.edu

Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Tom Kelly, Director of Campus Safety, 431-4111 or kellyt@hartwick.edu

Director of Human Resources, Suzanne Janitz, 431-4319 or janitzs@hartwick.edu  

VP of Student Affairs, Meg Nowak, 431-4502 or nowakm@hartwick.edu

Dean of Student Life, Taralyn Loewenguth, 431-4152 or loewengutht@hartwick.edu


Also, the Title IX Coordinator is available to provide training to any group on campus, speak at organization meetings, or just explain options.