Highest Number of Harassment Disclosures in Two Years: College Releases Title IX Data from 2020-21 Year

By Phoebe Doscher, Editor-in-Chief

On Oct. 19, the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX released the aggregate statistics of Title IX reporting with updated numbers from the 2020-21 academic year. Last year, the College began publicly releasing Title IX data over a five-year period; this year’s data runs from fall 2016 to spring 2021.

The Title IX Office received 41 disclosures of gender-based and/or sexual harassment in the 2020-21 academic year, the highest it’s been since the 2017-18 year, which saw 74 disclosures. In the 2020-21 academic year, 14 of the reports were classified as harassment and 15 were classified as sexual assault.

“Every report is heartbreaking, but each disclosure also allows an opportunity for those who have experienced any form of discrimination and/or harassment to receive support and access resources,” Vice President of College Life and Dean of Students Anne Ehrlich said. “We remain committed to prevention and seek to create and maintain a campus free of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct.”

In the 2020-21 academic year, 35 percent of the student body were on campus for the fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic, the majority of which were first-year students. The Title IX Office continued to get reports while students studied remotely, and some included respondents who are not part of the College community, which warranted a different procedural option.

“We were receiving reports of incidents that they experienced at home and still responding providing information to them about their local resources and supportive measures available to them from the College,” Title IX Coordinator Amanda Blaugher said.

The amount of informal and formal process requests has decreased over the past five years. In the 2020-21 academic year, 36 of the reporting parties chose not to go through with a process request, while five chose the informal process route. None of them chose the formal process. The highest formal process request rate was in the 2018-18 academic year, with 20 requests. Since the 2017-18 academic year,  the most common choice among reporting parties is no process request.

“The decrease in request for formal resolution was something that many schools across the country were anticipating when the Department of Education released the new Title IX Regulations in May of 2020,” said Blaugher. The Department of Education policy change gave more rights to those accused of sexual harassment or assault by allowing advisors to cross-examine the opposing party during a hearing.

In the past five academic years, The Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX has received a total of 243 reports, with 135 of the reporting parties requesting no further resolution or investigation. Of the 41 that requested formal resolution, 67 percent found responsibility and sanction.

Over the summer, the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Task Force produced an Executive Summary with recommendations for the Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX. The change resulted in the College’s provision of an on-campus Victim Services Advocate, Emily Uleau, in partnership with the Adams County Sexual Assault Services. Uleau is on campus two days a week.

The Title IX Office anticipates increased reporting at Gettysburg as students return to campus to see readily available information about sexual misconduct reporting and partake in educational training. “I believe we will see requests for formal resolution return, but it may take some time since many are still hesitant about the current regulations requiring the ability to have cross examination by the advisor of choice,” Blaugher said.

Next steps

The Title IX Office provided more educational training and programming over the past academic year, which could be a result of increases in reporting. This semester, the access to sexual misconduct resources, including stickers in public restrooms with QR codes, have raised awareness of reporting options, as reflected in the increase in reports since the start of the academic year.

“At the end of September we had received 21 reports total,” Blaugher said. “The last time we had received that amount of reports was in 2017-2018 when it was 22 reports.” 

The continued efforts of the Title IX Office to provide resources for reporting reflects nationwide trends of underreported instances of sexual violence on college campuses. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) cites that 20 percent of college-aged females report to law enforcement.

“Survivors of sexual assault may choose not to report their assault for any number of reasons, including fear of retaliation, distrust of the institution, the risk of retraumatization, or a general feeling that what happened simply isn’t a ‘big enough deal’ to bother with the process,” Survivors of Gettysburg said. “All these reasons are valid, and in no way does a lack of a report mean that an assault did not occur.”

The Office of Sexual Respect and Title IX began publicly releasing aggregate statistics of Title IX data from over a five-year period beginning last fall, and committed to releasing it annually.  “This was done to increase transparency around the number of reports, the type of behavior that is reported, and the resolution process that is requested by the reporting party,” Ehrlich said.

“The release of this data is a small, necessary step that needs to be taken in order for the Title IX office to create opportunities for true justice and reliable safety for survivors within the reporting process,” Survivors of Gettysburg said in a statement.

See the full data overview here:

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Author: Phoebe Doscher

Phoebe Doscher ’22 is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian. She formerly worked as Magazine Editor, News Editor, Assistant News Editor, Staff Writer, and Copyeditor. She is an English with a Writing Concentration and Theatre Arts double major. On campus, she is an intern for Gettysburg’s Communications & Marketing Office, the president of the Owl & Nightingale Players, and the News Director for WZBT, serving as the co-host of The Gettysburgian’s podcast On Target.

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