By Fathema Ahmed
On Jan. 20, Title Nine Coordinator and Director of Compliance & Diversity, Silvia Montalban, sent out an email informing the John Jay community on the City University of New York’s (CUNY) new policy on sexual misconduct. The new policy, also known as Title Nine, states that sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and sexual violence is prohibited against any CUNY student, employee or visitor.
Students who experience any act of sexual harassment are advised to go to either the Title Nine coordinator, Office of Public Safety, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and/or Dean of Students or Resident Life staff. An investigation will follow after the victim files an incident report. The investigation should be completed within 60 days of the complaint being filed; necessary measures will be taken after the investigation is complete.
Title Nine refers to a civil rights law that is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 that was effective on June 23, 1972. It states that no person in the United States can be discriminated based on gender. CUNY’s version of Title Nine that was effective Jan. 1 expands on this law.
Each CUNY College has an employee who has been appointed Title Nine coordinator. The Title Nine coordinator for John Jay, Montalban, works with the Director of Public Safety and Risk Management, Kevin Cassidy, and Women’s Center Counselor/Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Advocate, Jessica Greenfield who works under the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs.
“The thing is to get people to understand that anything that they find is uncomfortable for them, any kind of events or situation that they come across, that they can come and ask questions, it doesn’t have to be a full-blown complaint, but they at least can go find out that something can be done if they feel something inappropriate happened to them,” said Montalban, regarding her coordination with Public Safety and the Counseling Department. “Public safety refers them to me, or because they decide to come directly to me or because the counseling office becomes aware of somebody who’s concerned about something.”
After the incident is brought to Montalban, it is then investigated. The Title Nine Coordinator’s findings are taken to the President of the college who then decides whether or not the allegations are accountable. If the allegations are found to be true the matter is then taken up with the Dean of Student Affairs who then decides what disciplinary actions should be taken.
“I listen to see what the nature of it is, then I ask them to give me more information as to anybody who may have witnessed it or anybody that knows more about it,” said Montalban on the investigation process. “I’ll review all kinds of evidence, access credibility, because sometimes people think that a he said, she said, or she said, she said, doesn’t matter which gender, but people think that there’s just two people and no witnesses, so it cancels each other out and we can’t do anything and that’s wrong. I want people to have faith in the process.”
In order for an investigation to take place, the victim has to be affiliated with CUNY.
“We would take seriously even a complaint that occurred off campus when it involved two John Jay students or a John Jay student and another CUNY student. We’re here to offer help and resources to our students,” said Montalban.
Students are advised to report sexual misconduct to public safety or to the local precinct. There are eight buildings at John Jay. These buildings are the New Building, North Hall, Haaren Hall, Westport, Macaulay Honors College, the 54th street Annex, the BMW building and the New Yorker Hotel. Although the eight buildings are all covered by the new CUNY policy, they are covered by three different precincts. North Hall and Macaulay Honors College are covered by the NYPD 20th precinct. The Midtown North precinct covers the other buildings with the exception of the New Yorker hotel, which is covered by the Midtown South precinct.
Public Safety gets involved when there is a threat to safety. “We just investigate the facts, we’re the investigative arm of the Title Nine policy,” said Cassidy. “If something is reported to us we investigate it, pass it along to legal, legal then in turn passes it along to various governing bodies within John Jay, we’re not the judge or the judge’s advocate in this case.”
Greenfield would get involved when a person is in need of counseling, “I’m the person who’s more the victim’s advocate, I explain to people what their options are, who helps them connect them with resources, whether they’re internal like supportive services on campus or somebody wants to go get counseling at an outside organization, I help people with that and then I talk to them about their options in terms of reporting if they want to make a report with the Title Nine coordinator or they want to talk to the NYPD.”
Students also feel that the new policy is effective, “I am satisfied with the current policy because on top of the fact that they’re following protocols to aid victims in seeking justice, they are also taking in to account the mental and physical health of victims,” said John Jay sophomore, Kadeem Robinson. “I appreciate that CUNY understands that sexual misconduct is in no way tolerable or accepted.”
Another student feels similarly about the policy “I think it’s for the better because there needs to be a line drawn between what is appropriate and inappropriate. The policy elaborates on each definition,” said John Jay senior Nicole Brandao.
“I think it’s good that it’s being reinforced, I think it’s excellent that it’s being bought back to life and that everyone is becoming a lot more educated and more aware of Title Nine and how the reporting structure works and what should be done because a lot of times people are misinformed or individuals are misinformed of who to report these sexual incidents to or where they should go, “ said Cassidy.