Dear Title IX,
You confuse me. I have been trying to figure out how you work for months now, and I still don’t have a clear answer. But let me explain…
Nor’easter News is run by six students, none of whom are journalism majors, half of whom are dyslexic. We are members of this club because we enjoy writing and we aspire to utilize our voice on campus. We have fought endlessly to keep this club relevant even though our small news crew doesn’t have a lot of power. We spend our free time, among the school work, writing in hopes to bring joy, inspiration, and awareness to others. We don’t get paid, we don’t get credit, we simply find gratification in expressing ourselves through words.
With this in mind, I would like to talk about last semester. An article was published that covered a very serious topic, how students view sexual assault and Title IX on campus. The article was very long, very important, and brought up other concerning stories on this topic. Stories including a piece by Ben Guarino and Neel V. Patel, published in November 2018, on The Verge: An Academic Reported Sexual Harassment. Her University Allegedly Related.
The article was written to start a conversation. It was meant to bring attention to the idea that assault can, and has, happened at UNE. When students are faced with these traumatizing circumstances, some do not understand the procedures that will follow the incident. Should they choose to report the assault, it is unclear what will happen to their health, education, and social life when seeking help. This is what we consider to be the root of the problem.
The methods, outcomes, consequences, and benefits of coming forward about one’s assault are in an unknown gray area on campus. We believe that these answers need to be made more accessible and comprehensible to students every year they are studying at UNE.
When you think about it, not every student will need to know the procedures following an assault during their education. But in reality, how many students do you want to be in a bad situation and not know what to do or who to turn to for help?
But I digress. A few days after the article was published, Nor’easter News made the autonomous decision to have it taken down. The article simply wasn’t ready.
Along with the voice and passion the article possessed, there were also many flaws. Members of the UNE community took it upon themselves to make it clear to the club that the article had not gone through proper editing, which it hadn’t, as almost none of our articles do. We are not professional editorial staff.
The bottom line was: The article needed work, but the message rang loud and clear. Students are unsure of what will happen if they report sexual assault and what Title IX does to keep them safe.
Despite the setback, we never stopped writing.
There have been over three drafts of the article. Each one has included interviews, numerous editors and countless edits, data, policy checks, and various opinions from multiple people. No matter how hard we tried to figure it out, the article has always fallen short of what we want, what outside sources want, and the true intention of the original piece. As hard as it is to admit, the purpose of the original article was lost in the making.
It’s a lot of stress to try to cover a topic this big. Nor’easter News has never had to deal with a subject matter of this caliber before. It is very new to us, and I feel the club has grown immensely while trying to overcome these obstacles. We still have a long way to go as journalists, but looking back on how far we have come shows how important this article is to Nor’easter News and the students of UNE.
Thanks to the determination of outside clubs and the momentum the article generated, the conversation we hoped for was created. UNE is now talking about sexual assault and women’s voices more than ever. Despite the rough patches this article has put the club though, it has been worth it to know UNE is starting to change for the better.
Even with the conversation sparking across campus, there are still strides UNE needs to make. It is hard to say, at this point, if we will ever find a perfect system, but the school should never stop trying. It needs to be understood that students are unsure because there isn’t a clear or well-known answer on how to properly report an assault. Fear of stigma, fear of never escaping the trauma, and fear that no one will listen still exists on campus. There needs to be a safe place for students to openly express their concerns with the school without feeling patronized or intimidated by them.
UNE needs to educate more about Title IX, orientation isn’t enough. Seeking help shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle or an inconvenience after being assaulted. We need to work harder to create a community that is supportive and does not shame those for reaching out.
At the end of the day, UNE’s Biddeford Campus is safe. Students shouldn’t fear walking alone at night or going to a dance. But assault is an issue that can be found on any campus, even the safe ones. It is our responsibility as students to make it clear we want more. That we need more.
An important conversation has been building on this campus, and we hope to keep it going. If you would like to add your voice to the message, please feel free to reach out to me, Loren Beale, Nor’easter News Co-President: [email protected]
Survivors are important, their stories will be heard, and no one should have to struggle to find peace after trauma.