Bergh clarifies Title IX and policy 311A


Tom Benton

Dave Bergh

“I feel that this part of Title IX makes it so that you can’t tell someone you trust something that’s bothering you,” said Kyle Betournay, a JSC freshman. “It creates a community where it feels less open.”

Reservations aside, Betournay may be among a minority of students who are in fact aware that under Title IX, college faculty and staff are required to report any instances of stated or suspected abuse to administration.

Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972. It prohibits discrimination based on gender in any aspect of a college’s operations. While this usually is associated with athletics, it does apply to other departments as well.

Vermont State Colleges has policy 311, which keeps the college system under compliance of Title IX.
In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights sent out a letter stating that sexual assault should be covered under Title IX, and the VSC created policy 311A to comply with this.

“Under our policies, faculty and staff are considered ‘responsible employees’ for purposes of Title IX,” said Dean of Students Dave Bergh. “And that means that once they are made aware of an incident of sexual misconduct — dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, those sorts of things — they are required to report that.”

The exception to this rule would be if the student is in an environment where confidentiality is reasonably expected. Bergh used the examples of a “Take Back the Night” event, a research project, or conversations with counselors.

College employees are expected to report incidents regardless of when or where they occurred, so this is not limited to incidents that occur on school property or even when the student attended college.

This does not mean, however, that the victim will be forced to pursue further action.

“We advise them on the whole range of things that they can do, but obviously that’s still up to the individual,” said Bergh. “So simply the fact that this gets reported doesn’t mean that we’re forcing the student to do anything. And whenever we can, the institution is still going to try to respect the individual’s request for confidentiality.”

An exception to this would be when a perpetrator could commit further acts of violence on other people. The college would pursue further action, but the individual is still able to decline involvement in that process.

For both policies, incidents are reported to Bergh. For policy 311, there are informal ways to deal with the issue, such as having meetings with perpetrators and explaining why their behavior is inappropriate.

For policy 311A, there are no informal procedures. If action is pursued, investigators will be appointed, and interim suspension can be used while determining if an individual is guilty.

Some students have spoken out about privacy concerns regarding these reports.

Bergh said that if an employee suspects that a student is about to share sensitive information, they should stop the student and warn them that they may not be able to keep confidentiality.