Doane University students protest lack of permanent Title IX coordinator

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Doane University students held a protest on Monday in hopes of convincing the president to hire a Title IX coordinator.

The civil rights law enacted in 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against students and staff at any school that receives federal funding.

This applies to everything from harassment and sexual assault to treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

For years, Doane has had an interim Title IX coordinator, but students are now calling for a more dedicated, permanent official.

The interim coordinator is Leah Cech.

She is also the director of spiritual life and the programming coordinator for the Division of Diversity, and she teaches on campus.

“I have been through several hours of training to hold this position,” Cech said. “While everyone who holds the interim position is well versed and capable of doing this work, it’s also something that takes us away from other things we could be dedicating our time to.”

Students say it’s unfair to expect people to report Title IX violations to someone with so many duties. They are also worried about possible conflicts of interest when the coordinator is involved in so many areas of campus life.

Jules Damme, a junior at Doane and one of the organizers of the protest, said the protest started as a class project to make a change on campus.

“From the beginning, we wanted to talk about Title IX and getting it more out there,” Damme said. “And after talking with faculty, we realized the more pressing issue was getting someone here at Doane to handle Title IX.”

Another organizer, senior Jaden Hilkemann, said there’s also been an increase in Title IX reports lately.

“One thing we’ve noticed is an increase in Title IX reporting, which we know is actually a good thing because it means students feel comfortable reporting whatever is happening to them,” she said.

Hilkemann said that with more incoming reports, they want to make sure Doane has the resources to handle them.

Rowan Jolkowski, a community adviser on campus, is a mandatory reporter and wants to make sure any information shared with them is handled properly in a timely manner.

“I would like to believe the Title IX coordinators are doing all they can,” Jolkowski said. “And especially with this increase in reports, I want to make sure that there is enough effort dedicated to this cause.”

Students said they’ve met with President Roger Hughes and are working with him to ensure they see a change at Doane.

Cech said while there aren’t any set plans for hiring a coordinator yet, the university will be revisiting how it handles Title IX.

She says the most important thing is that students are asking questions and getting the university to listen.

“It takes courage to protest, and they wanted to do it in a way that was helpful to their peers,” Cech said. “Because ultimately their goal is making Doane a safer place to be.”

Doane does include a full list of Title IX policies on its website.

It says the university “is a place of excitement and learning where all ages, abilities and disabilities, races, creeds, orientations, genders, identities, and ethnic and national origins have the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge toward goals which will make them effective citizens and promote their individual and group well-being.”

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