Threshold of discomfort: handling sexual harassment on campus

A week before halloween, Jazmin Moreno is studying in the library when her friend notices someone staring at her. A half hour goes by and the young man wearing cargo shorts and a blue t-shirt is still there. Moreno gets up to catch the bus and the man gets up and follows her, giving her the same uncomfortable stare for the next thirty minutes until her bus arrives. The bus pulls away and the young man doesn’t get on, he just stares at her and licks his lips.
The next day in the library, Moreno catches a student taking pictures of her rear with a cell phone.
“I felt disgusted,” says Moreno, reflecting on both incidents. “But I couldn’t think of anything that could be done… I’m ok. I’m tough but I’ve seen other people that have gone through this and have burst into tears.”
After a friend suggested speaking out, Moreno went to the Women’s Center on campus where she spoke with the program manager, Lynette Peters, about the events. She was then directed to security, which recorded the facts about the case but told her that ultimately nothing could be done about the men without solid evidence.
“I particularly don’t like to talk to security or counselors about these things,” Moreno says. “The only reason I went to security was to raise awareness because I knew nothing was going to be done about it.”
Although Moreno reached out to several resources on campus, rather than speak to a professional, Moreno wishes she had had a friend to talk to after the incident. Reaching out to Shoreline’s Feminists United club, and communicating with what she describes as “the entire system” at Shoreline, Moreno came up with her own idea on how to deal with the experience of being harassed.
“I wanted to start a group where people could just talk about their experiences with sexual harassment,” Moreno says. “A group that helps people relate to each other would be more efficient than what’s available on campus because it is going to happen everywhere and people are just going to have to deal with it.”
Moreno’s friend, Catalina Miller, also believes such a group would be useful, saying that it would be a chance for students who have undergone sexual harassment to build strength and confidence amongst people who can relate to each other's experiences.
“We need (a resource) that feels more like a community, something that allows us to all look out for and relate to each other. A club would do a good job of that,” Miller says.
Miller, 20, is also a victim of harassment at Shoreline, enduring her first experience while she toured the campus during her senior year of high school. After a young man got ahold of her number from a mutual acquaintance, Miller had to ignore a bombardment of flirtatious texts and phone calls before being physically confronted by the man on campus a year later.
Feeling violated, Miller says she was by the 800 building during the time of the event and would have contacted security if she had been close to one of the emergency phones. She says closer proximity of security would have helped in her situation, as the man had followed and cussed at her until she eventually got on a bus and left the college.
Robin Blacksmith, director of safety, security and emergency management on campus, says that in cases involving sexual harassment, security does not typically take action unless a person is requesting an escort to his or her vehicle. She says that they can provide options for people who are feeling threatened such as switching classes, taking classes online, or assisting in creating a “no contact order” which can prohibit communication between individuals.
Sexual harassment can be handled by Shoreline’s Title IX staff, who are a group of 7 deputy coordinators that ensure sex discrimination and harassment is not tolerated on campus. In the event that a sexual harassment incident occurs, students or staff are recommended to contact one of the 7 deputy coordinators (listed at www.shoreline.edu/title-ix), who can help build a case for a complaintant who provides substantial evidence.
The deputies, who have the power to terminate employment of faculty or staff as well as prevent students from registering for classes, are a reflection of a larger Title IX campaign which has been ongoing since Cheryl Roberts became president of the college. In addition to training staff on Title IX law, Shoreline has also been making a vigorous public outreach effort.
Title IX posters, which are visible nearly everywhere on campus, are a part of this outreach and intended to spread awareness about students’ rights when it comes to sexual discrimination and harassment.
Stephen Smith, one of the Title IX coordinators, says that an increase in reported incidents and complaints is likely to occur as a result of the increase in these awareness efforts.
Moreno believes that the posters will dissuade people from engaging in sexual harassment on campus saying that it should make people more aware of the consequences for their actions.
“You want to scare people from engaging in sexual harassment but you also want to make them understand that it’s not just because the school doesn’t allow it. It’s because it’s not right,” she says.
Miller on the other hand says she has seen the posters and feels they do nothing to make people who have been in a harassment situation feel any more safe, calling them “a waste of trees and ink.”
The Title IX outreach will not end with the posters however, as Smith says that the school will see online Title IX training by the end of Winter quarter. This will be obligatory for faculty, staff and student employees as well as athletes at Shoreline.

_Gregor Elgee

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