START: Student-led Initiative Seeks to Shed Light on Title IX

Last summer, juniors Leah Ciffolillo, Jamie Baum, and senior McKenna Becker came up with the idea to begin the Student Title IX Assistant and Resource Team. The idea came about after the group went through “Trust, Education, Safety, Support, and Action” (TESSA) training and then volunteered for the organization. “We started thinking that maybe we could implement some of the things we learned at TESSA on campus because a lot of these issues are really prevalent on our campus,” said Ciffolillo.

START, once it exists, will be a team of five to eight students that are trained through various methods with different people on different topics to provide assistance and resources to students related to Title IX issues. Title IX related issues include gender-based discrimination, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and the term CC uses, “intimate partner violence and stalking,” said Baum.

There is an even greater need for such an organization because many students on campus do not have student-to-student resources to turn to for support. After the dissolution of the Victim Advocacy Team, which occurred after the implementation of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office, there hasn’t been another resource where student survivors can go to trained students who are knowledgeable on resources and can offer support.

“A big part of our mission is to provide a comfortable, easy place to go for a resource on campus,” said Baum. “Despite all the wonderful and truly helpful resources the campus has to offer, it can be very intimidating for students going through such a traumatic experience to have to talk to someone who seems so official because they are adults through the school. The idea is that students are easier to talk to and we want to provide that resource to students.”

Ciffolillo, Baum, and Becker are all hoping to point students in the direction of Maria Mendez, the SARC, who can then present the students with an array of options open to them as a survivor, and provide support if they are in need.

“We also want to dispel any misconceptions people may have about the SARC and the Title IX issues and processes, and just answer people’s questions about what they can do and their options and resources,” said Ciffolillo. One common term that the group wants to clarify is “confidentiality” and the implications of it. “A lot of people don’t know what confidentiality entails,” Ciffolillo continued. “So Maria is a confidential resource, but a lot of people don’t know what that means. So if you were to go to Maria, that info isn’t sent to someone else; a report isn’t sent to the school.” Dispelling such misconceptions will hopefully lead to more students making use of resources like the SARC.

Another essential part of the group is making sure that it is inclusive of everyone on campus and representative of students from marginalized groups. Some steps the group has taken to ensure inclusivity have been having a meeting with Liliana Delman from the Butler Center to find out ways in which they can be inclusive and making sure as many students know of the program as possible.

“The three people who started this are white women, and we’re all aware of that, and so we are trying to get it off the ground because we have the energy and passion,” said Baum concerning inclusion. “But then we’re trying to make this representative group,” to which Ciffolillo added: “What we are really hoping for is to make sure our applications reach as many students as possible so our applicant pool is as representative of the student body as possible.”

A huge part of making sure that the program is diversified includes having students from all groups apply. The applications are due April 26 and can be emailed to START@coloradocollege.edu. The applications have been sent to several listservs, the Butler Center Announcements, and can also be found in The Digest.

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