Sept. 2022 Advocate: Gender Oppression Task Force organizes to strengthen District’s Title IX processes

Anti-Oppression Organizing

AFT 1493’s Gender Oppression Task Force organizes to strengthen District’s Title IX policies and procedures

by Kolo Wamba, AFT 1493 Skyline College Executive Committee Rep.

AOC is AFT Local 1493’s Anti-Oppression Committee. Led by Skyline sociology professor and AFT Chapter Chair Dr. Rika Yonemura-Fabian, AOC was formed in Fall 2020 with the express mission to vigorously defend the right of students, classified professionals, and faculty to learn and work in an environment free of oppression.

In Fall 2021, the AOC formed a Gender Oppression Task Force and began to explore the issue of gender oppression in the teaching and learning environment.  Part of this activity entailed reviewing how our District implemented Title IX policy and we found several troubling discrepancies and irregularities. Title IX is, of course, the landmark federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972 which specifically prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or educational programs that receive federal funding.  From our review, it was clear to the AOC gender oppression task force that our District, which has a legal obligation to fully comply with Title IX, has been sloppy, opaque, slow, and generally inadequate when it comes to protecting students, classified professionals, and faculty from discriminatory behavior and gender-based violence.  The District’s Title IX reports sometimes get lost, cases often take unreasonably long to investigate (if they are investigated at all), it is never clear exactly what is happening during a given Title IX process, and it has not been made obvious what, as mandatory reporters, our specific roles and responsibilities are or how to fulfill them.The committee also could not find the evidence that the District was offering timely and sufficient measures to protect the filers from retaliation.

AOC sends open letter to District leadership demanding changes to Title IX processes 

This sorry state of affairs led AOC in December 2022 to prepare an open letter to District leadership decrying the state of Title IX in our District and making 8 specific demands, which can be summarized as follows.

  1. Provide a flowchart of investigation processes of Title IX cases, accessible to all District community members and publicly posted online.
  2. Share districtwide the organizational chart that indicates the District- and College-level personnel who are responsible for investigating and acting on Title IX complaints.
  3. Specify whether SMCCCD has a Title IX investigator within the District and/or Colleges. If so, explain how this individual is chosen and the criteria used to select the investigator.
  4. Explain how Title IX coordinators are chosen and the criteria used to select them. Additionally, indicate how the selection process ensures that their identities and backgrounds promote accessibility, inclusivity, and the necessary level of trust required for reporting matters as sensitive as gender-based aggression.
  5. Articulate a clear definition of retaliation and specific protocols to prevent retaliation, and specify what protections are available to the reporter/complainant.
  6. Provide thorough institutional support for victims of gender aggression.
  7. Offer an updated and required Title IX training to all SMCCCD employees, including administrators and students.
  8. Provide transparency regarding how the District identifies and addresses patterns of harassment (including repeat offenders).

Chancellor responds

The letter was endorsed first by our Local and then by the three college Academic Senates. In the meantime it was also shared with Local membership as an Action Network petition.  However, before we could present our case to the Board of Trustees – and even before the petition went live, Chancellor Claire’s office, which had somehow gotten ahold of the letter ahead of time, issued a detailed and lengthy response.   In it, the Chancellor provided incomplete answers to some demands; and for other demands, the Chancellor’s office claimed (with insufficient evidence) that the specific demand had already been met.

In due course AOC responded with a list of questions for Chancellor Claire and the District, and were granted a meeting with District HR and the Compliance Officer to go over the District’s answers to our questions. The meeting, which took place over the summer, proved inadequate to address all of our concerns. For example, one of our original demands was for the District to publicly post online a detailed flowchart depicting the sequence of steps in a Title IX process– but as of this writing, this has still not taken place.  Moreover, we have learned in the meantime from our Local’s legal counsel that the District appears to be out of compliance with its Title IX reporting requirements to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and has been for quite some time.

Some progress from District

Where there has been progress has been in getting the District to recognize the importance of Title IX and to realize that adequate resources must be committed to ensuring that it is fully upheld.   The District has taken steps to update its administrative procedures, and at Flex Day last spring District HR ran a helpful workshop on Title IX and Title V that was very well attended.  Both of these are positive incremental developments that may not have taken place had it not been for the efforts of AOC over the past year.

Have you had experiences with District’s Title IX process?

Still, the fight is far from over.  We still need to get the District to afford the appropriate level of seriousness and clarity to Title IX (of the sort exemplified by, for example, by the San Diego Community College District) but with the continued support of our Local membership, we will get there.  AOC would like to thank our members for their continued endorsement of our work – we couldn’t do this without you!  If you are interested in getting involved with AOC, please contact Rika at  AOC is open to everyone in the community and there’s no formal process to join – just drop in on any of our meetings whenever you have the time.  We especially would like to hear from members who have had difficult experiences with our District’s Title IX process, particularly in those cases where they’ve had to file a report on behalf of a student.  If you are in this predicament, you are entitled to recourse, and we can help you file a formal complaint with OCR.  We suspect that there are many people in our Local who are in a similar situation, and we strongly encourage each of them to come forward.  The more complaints the OCR receives, the more pressure we place on the District to clean up its act.  Let’s win this fight, and get a fair and transparent Title IX policy for all!