Resource Roundup: The Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion
Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.
The Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion, formerly known as the Title IX office, handles sexual misconduct, harassment, and gender-based violence issues as they affect our campus community. One of the most important roles the office fills is to ensure that Title IX is upheld. Reports of gender-based crimes are sent to this office, where they are investigated, and further action is taken when necessary. Outside of investigating and evaluating gender-based crimes, the office works to provide academic support to those who experience them. From ordering no-contact forms, referring students to CAPS or Women Helping Women, to communicating the need for assistance and accommodation to faculty or staff, the Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion does a lot with campus resources to support students in need. Matt Olovson, interim director says, “Our office facilitates a lot of those support, intervention, and information resources on campus and in our community.”
Another important aspect of what the Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion does is educating community-members on prevention of gender-based crimes. You might see representatives from the office on campus, giving tailored training sessions (which you can order on their website) that focus on topics such as consent, respectful work environments, microaggressions, implicit bias, and bystander intervention, among others. These sessions allow attendees to go through scenarios where these types of situations play out in real time, arming them with the knowledge of what to do about them and the practice to put it to good use. The Student Wellness Center is also a great office on campus. They offer their own bystander intervention training sessions (and many other topics), which can be ordered through their website. Education on what resources are out there is key. And obviously with the pandemic, these resources are being offered virtually for the time being.
If you have been confused why so many Public Safety Alerts – especially those pertaining to sexual misconduct – have entered your emails and phone notifications this year, you are not alone. Many of these announcements deal specifically with sexual assault and harassment. Why have all of these Public Safety Alerts gone out? “I don’t know that there is any evidence that suggests more sexual misconduct is happening now than in the past, but we’re receiving more reports for sure,” Matt says. He suggests that the reason for this is because the knowledge of our campus members is changing. People are more aware of the resources and are more willing to file a report when something happens and seek assistance when they need it. “I think a lot of times when you don’t know whether or not you’ll be supported by an office, you’re hesitant to come forward with any complaints or concerns,” he says. This hesitancy is something that the office is actively working to change via their efforts in education and outreach. Education is, as Matt suggests, why “folks are finally accessing resources and trying to get help and assistance with regards to those situations.”
Campus has many different resources, the Office of Gender Equity & Inclusion being one of them, to tap into when looking for support. Student-led groups are also an integral part of our support network; organizations such as Graduate Student Government (GSG) can serve as a powerful tool in amplifying and articulating your voice. Matt says that students have a particularly strong voice in advocating for the “kinds of policies, procedures, expectations they think the institute should have, including what kinds of resources the university should invest in regarding gender equity and inclusion work.” The GSG’s “Talk to us” form is a good place to start.
We all play a role – students, faculty, and staff alike – in the creation of an equitable, just, and inclusive campus. There are many ways to promote this kind of an environment; it can start with simply being a good friend and ally to your peers and those you work with. Simply put, look out for each other and if you see or hear something that indicates someone being treated unfairly, hostilely, or in a discriminatory manner, don’t just be a bystander that lets these things happen. Matt weighs in by saying, in the case of situations where you feel unsafe, “immediately, call the police, or if you think someone else is in danger, call the police and have them intervene.” UCPD’s emergency line is 911; non-emergency is 6-1111 (for West Campus) and 8-1111 (for Medical Campus). Check out the Safety Resources page for more information. Education and advocacy are paramount to shaping the inclusive, respectful environment that we should all be striving for.