Suffolk’s Title IX shares resources, domestic travel resolution brought to floor in SGA

Warning: This article contains sensitive information regarding sexual misconduct. Resources are available for Suffolk University community members here

National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN): 1-800-656-4673

Sheila Calkins, director of Title IX and Clery Act compliance at Suffolk University, attended the Student Government Association’s Oct. 14 meeting to address senators’ concerns about sexual misconduct on campus and Title IX resources.

Calkins presented Title IX resources, including the university’s bias reporting system, as well as Suffolk-specific and national resources for victims of sexual misconduct. 

She explained the process that bias and discrimination reports go through. The reports initially go through Calkins, who then contacts students, assesses the matter and refers the report to the appropriate campus department. 

Class of 2023 Senator Ana Luiza Bernardes raised concern over this process. Since Calkins is the only one initially reading these reports, Bernardes said she was worried that there may be a lack of understanding of diverse experiences.

“My experiences, or someone else’s experiences, or an LGBTQ+ person’s experiences may not [be understood] just because of our different identities,” Bernardes said. “Not everyone is going to understand what I can go through, or what someone else can go through.”

Bernardes suggested that a committee of diverse perspectives who read these reports, instead of just Calkins, may be more effective in terms of understanding the experiences of Suffolk’s diverse student population. 

Calkins explained that she is the only one who does the initial reading of the reports and meets one-on-one with the reporter. The incident can then be referred, at the discretion of the reporter, to someone who may better understand the student’s experience.

“If a student says that they want more than one person to review it, I can make that happen and work with the student and find out who else they would like to review it,” Calkins said. 

Senator Nathaly Lemus asked specifically what updates were made to the bias and discrimination reporting form on Suffolk’s website

“We went to the actual form and we tried to update it to be consistent with what students had questions about or concerns about,” Calkins said. “We also spoke to a lot of different student groups who had very similar concerns.” 

Director of Title IX, Sheila Calkins, shares resources with SGA (James Bartlett)

Treasurer Evan Weston raised concerns regarding holding perpetrators of sexual misconduct accountable for their actions, especially since the system put in place requires Title IX to meet with all parties involved in the complaint. 

“No one wants to get in trouble, and people can twist stories,” Weston said. “What are some of the precautions you take to make sure that those who are doing the assaulting don’t get to go and potentially make the community vulnerable?” 

In response, Calkins emphasized that she has to honor and listen to what the victim of the incident wants to see happen. 

“I try to work really closely with the person who’s reporting, to make sure that they feel safe personally,” Calkins said. 

During open forum, a resolution was introduced by Senator JD Conte to restore Suffolk-sponsored domestic travel after it was suspended during the fall semester due to COVID-19 and the rise of the Delta variant. The resolution passed through the initial senate vote and will be delegated to the Student Affairs Committee. 

The resolution has to first undergo a review through the Student Affairs Committee and Student Judiciary Review Board (SJRB)  before a final senate vote can occur. The resolution will not be officially implemented until there is a final senate vote.

Follow Grace on Twitter @egracedreher.