Beer goggles, munchies and Title IX violations

Natalie Comerford, Opinion Columnist

Every year, we have the same dude, Jason Kilmer, come in and give a talk to freshmen during orientation week about “Beer Goggles to Blackouts, ‘The Munchies’ to Memory Issues.” It’s supposed to be a general welcome-to-college kind of talk: there’s alcohol here, don’t get too drunk, don’t smoke in the dorms and the classic nicely-phrased request; boys, please don’t sexually assault people. The class of 2025 was then treated to a talk from RAs about masturbation, including a fantastically written (and informative) packet with different methods. “Sex & Pizza” was a night hosted by RAs and RDs for some dorms, but it didn’t go well because RAs weren’t trained for it in the slightest and they canceled it for the rest of the year.

The incomplete and untrained education that we received is similar to, if not better than, what my friends in other schools received. Student organizations devoted to sexual violence prevention on campus are great when they aren’t squashed by a completely unsupportive administration like on Whitman’s campus. When people are inevitably assaulted on a college campus, the routes for reporting and accountability are inefficient and unnecessarily burdensome. But why do we have this patchwork of incomplete policies? The short answer: Title IX.

This piece of legislation is responsible for most of our policies surrounding sexual harassment on college campuses, and it establishes that any federally-funded educational institution may not engage in discrimination on the basis of sex. It’s an important law and entire frameworks of sexual violence prevention on college campuses have been built on it. More severe crimes are still reported to law enforcement, but Title IX is–in theory–a different way victims can seek either accommodations or retribution within the campus.

The issue is that it doesn’t work. At least, not correctly.

Title IX created a system in which schools are left to hold themselves accountable, and as a result, administrators are left in charge of dealing with reports; administrators, whose utmost goal is not to protect students, but to protect the school. Title IX gives massive amounts of discretion to schools, which effectively become self-governing when it comes to sexual assault. It gives these administrators incentive to sweep reports under the rug, not respond seriously to claims and make the process unnecessarily painful for victims.

Title IX does not require schools to provide education about consent, though some schools choose to do this. Our consent education is completely incomplete; at Whitman, training about our rights under Title IX is functionally non-existent, and even if students are somehow aware of their rights–reporting is a long process with frequently dissatisfactory outcomes.

Title IX is also supposed to theoretically hold schools accountable for any wrongdoings they committed, such as not investigating a report they should have.

Cool, but who did they leave in charge of holding the school accountable? An administrator for the school. These administrators are expected to be impartial—we see how well this works in other sectors like, for instance, internal affairs within police forces. Title IX gives massive discretion to schools and institutions take advantage of it.

We deserve more than “Beer Goggles to Blackouts” and “Sex & Pizza.” The purpose of Title IX is to establish that we all deserve to feel safe in our learning environment. Indeed, we all do deserve to feel safe in our learning spaces, and Title IX is failing. Honestly, it’s disheartening to know that Title IX will probably take a long time to change, but until then, hopefully we can let student organizations and some well-meaning faculty and staff make things a little better.