Title IX module confuses students

A Blackboard module focused on Title IX for all but first year students was quietly activated without notification from the university, which should have alerted students that the module is mandatory and serves to inform them. This week, students will log into Blackboard and find a module named “Title IX Education and Awareness,” which went live Jan. 6, from the office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

Without appropriate notice, the module comes as a shock, and students will be confused about its purpose.

“I feel annoyed that this module is a requirement and has a deadline,” said junior finance major Caroline Yin.

Like Yin, students could view this module as a nuisance that will add to their frustrations; and much like AlcoholEdu and Haven, modules that teach alcohol and sexual misconduct awareness, the looming deadline becomes another task to finish within the semester. This time, the Title IX module is a totally new concept.

“Title IX is an education amendment from 1972 which states ‘no person in the United States shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,’” said Rose M. J. Henton, Director of Training, Education and Outreach Programs.

The goal of this module, according to Henton, is “not only to ensure [that] victims/survivors of sexual assault receive valuable services and support they need, but also to prevent sexual assault.”

Yin said she thinks she’ll gain “more knowledge about [the topic] because it’s not something that comes up in conversation with others,” but that the module may be harder to complete because discrimination and sexual misconduct are not explored in daily conversation.

“Students received email notice in Nov. 2016 along with an electronic copy of AAEC, Title IX/Sexual Misconduct Policy and Complaint Procedures,” according to Henton; however, Yin said she likely would not have ever noticed it because she received nothing from the university.

According to Henton, employees completed the module May through July 2016 before it was evaluated for student use in November.

Max Bisaillon, senior political science major, also said he did not receive notification. To ensure that all students were properly informed, he said the university should have done more than emailing students.

“Putting up flyers in the residence halls as well as buildings such as Barsema and DuSable … then it gets more visualization,” Bisaillon said. “And instead of a side link on Blackboard, [the university should] make it one of the middle news [headlines].”

If Yin and Bisaillon had no knowledge of it, then possibly many more students did not receive the Nov. 2016 email, nor would they have thought to check Blackboard Jan. 6 because they would not have known that a new course had been activated.

“It’s always upsetting when an inconvenience is thrust upon you without warning,” Bisaillon said.

“Once the law went into effect Aug. 1, 2016, AAEC realized additional information had to be included in the training. Blackboard, [which] offered more ease to add or change information and insert other media formats to engage the trainee, was familiar to students and provided the option to make the training more NIU-specific,” Henton said.

Yin agreed that having the module on Blackboard provides “easier access because [it] is something we use all the time.”

In contrast to AlcoholEdu and Haven, “Blackboard is a more cost-effective option for the university as a whole,” Henton said. “AlcoholEdu and Haven are purchased products, and therefore, have their own platforms.”

While Blackboard is an easily accessible platform to host Title IX training, communication from the university should have been more consistent in case students were not notified. However, this new module has great potential to educate the NIU community about the law, consent, reporting obligations, and rights in terms of sexual misconduct on campus.