A new student-designed women’s and gender studies class titled “Title IX for a New Generation” and aimed at encouraging students to address issues surrounding the Title IX system at Georgetown University will be offered for the first time in spring.
The course will explore the origin and impact of, as well as controversies around, Title IX, a law that protects students in education programs from discrimination on the basis of sex, according to the course catalog description. Sara Collina, attorney and women’s and gender studies adjunct lecturer, will work with students and peer mentors to complete project-based research and analyze how Title IX plays a role in students’ lives at Georgetown, according to Collina.
Collaborating with students to develop the first student-designed class on Title IX at Georgetown has been an exciting process, Collina wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“The title says it all- this is the moment and this is the generation to finally make Title IX work for everyone,” Collina wrote. “Students will be applying their academic prowess to address one of the contentious- and important-gender issues of our time.”
Collina began designing the course in spring 2019 after receiving an email from Provost Robert Groves calling on professors to propose experiential learning courses to add to Georgetown’s curriculum, she wrote. Collina then reached out to students potentially interested in learning more about Title IX to collaborate on the course.
After gauging interest from student collaborators, Collina received funding and approval for a fall 2019 three-credit interdisciplinary studies course titled “Interdisc Design Project.” The 11 students in the weekly fall course worked with Collina to design the upcoming spring class, “Title IX for a New Generation,” by developing learning objectives, assignments, lesson plans and assessments for the class, according to the course description.
The assignments in the upcoming class are not only intended to educate students on the history and effect of Title IX, but also to encourage a broader, positive impact on Georgetown’s approach to issues of sexual violence, according to student course collaborator Olivia Horton (COL ’20), who is enrolled in “Interdisc Design Project.”
“We won’t just be studying how universities could improve their cultures surrounding sexual harassment and assault, we will be designing resources and proposing improvements that will help Georgetown change our campus culture today,” Horton wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The class will be broken into four units: Orientation, Power & Privilege, Prevention, and Protection & Due Process, according to Casey Doherty (COL ’20), one of the students planning the course. Students will also be asked to write weekly reflections and research creative ways to approach Title IX issues.
The course will also collaborate with Health Education Services, the university’s Title IX staff and various student activist groups to educate students about the resources available to them at Georgetown, according to Lily Rubinstein (COL ’22), a student in “Interdisc Design Project.”
Georgetown has had various vacancies in its Title IX office in the past 18 months. After former Title IX Coordinator Laura Cutway unexpectedly left the university in June 2018, Samantha Berner, then Title IX investigator, began serving in both roles concurrently. On July 1, Berner was named full-time Title IX coordinator and director of Title IX compliance, leaving the Title IX investigator role vacant. The university still has not hired a full-time investigator.
Berner has joined with Collina in other classes to discuss Title IX with students and said she is looking forward to continuing her collaboration with Collina in the upcoming class.
“We are grateful for our community’s respectful and diverse engagement on these complex issues,” Berner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are excited to see the results of the Title IX For a New Generation class and will continue to work with our partners across campus on steps to prevent sexual assault and misconduct at Georgetown.”
In October, students in “Interdisc Design Project” attended a listening session about the results of the 2019 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey hosted by the Title IX staff, according to Berner. The survey, released Oct. 15, revealed that only 44.0% of survey respondents believe it is likely or extremely likely that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation in response to a report of sexual assault or other misconduct.
Doherty joined “Interdisc Design Project” to learn about ways to combat sexual violence and create equitable Title IX policy at Georgetown. The campus climate survey results demonstrated a need to improve the relationship between students and Georgetown’s Title IX Office, according to Doherty.
“Our campus climate survey shows that students don’t trust the Title IX Office or Georgetown in general to seek the best outcome for survivors,” Doherty wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This must change.”
“Title IX for a New Generation” will provide students with the tools to identify issues with the current implementation of the Title IX policy at Georgetown, according to Doherty.
“This class will equip students to be able to engage in difficult discussions, identify and explain power dynamics, and pinpoint problems within our current national and campus Title IX procedures,” Doherty wrote. “This class is empowering and critically important, and I’m proud to play a small role in its formation.”