Cal Poly's campus at night in November 2021. Credit: Kayla Stuart | Mustang News

At a forum held to review the CSU’s Title IX process, Cal Poly students shared their personal experiences, along with feedback on current resources and sexual assault awareness training.

On Thursday, Jan. 19 from 4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m., Cozen O’Connor law firm representatives Devon Riley and Maureen Holland hosted the forum as part of a systemwide assessment of the CSU’s Title IX policy.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any academic environment that receives federal funding and requires schools to implement procedures for sexual misconduct complaints.

“The value of this review is in the information that we learn from individuals like you of what’s working and what’s not,” Riley said, addressing the attendees. “We are curious how the programming at the university has developed lands in this community.” 

For Cal Poly alum Leia O’Brian, the Title IX process was a time-consuming and emotionally draining one.

“I went through 11 months of my control being taken away and people asking absurd questions,” O’Brian said. “I went through 11 months of this, for this person to only get a slap on the wrist for three months. I really wanted this person to have the required therapy and consent training — things that were going to make a difference.” 

Environmental management and protection fifth-year Camryn Okmin brought up that the time and effort that must be sacrificed to take action greatly contributes to the “fear and mistrust in the system.” 

“I know the Title IX process is triggering, frustrating and not fruitful,” Okmin said. 

A student participant also commented on the Title IX office coming off as “disconnected.” 

“People are sort of insulated from the Title IX office,” the participant said. “There are personal and professional conflicts that are turned into Title IX issues. And that’s not what it’s about. It’s these kinds of ridiculous complaints against them, and there are literal sexual assault survivors who aren’t being heard.”

The forum also touched on the topic of the sexual assault training, titled “Not Anymore.”

“They aren’t relevant at all,” Sociology sixth-year Mary Kate Harrington said. “All of the scenarios take place in a party scene, a place where not all rape and sexual assault happens.” 

O’Brian, a former RA, also agreed with Harrington that the “Not Anymore” training is not accurate, having previous experience helping residents go through the Title IX process. 

“I did have to deal with those experience situations where [residents] were harassed,” O’Brian said. “And it was unexpected because they were home and they were safe and it was something they weren’t shown.”

O’Brian said the RA training involving them to physically re-enact situations in dorm rooms was the best training they received with sexual assault awareness. 

“Having [the training] more personalized for Cal Poly specifically because we do have a serious problem, a history — the most prominent one being the Kristin Smart case Cal Poly is known for,” O’Brian said. 

Harrington, also a student employee, has worked with ASI for four years. She said that she and co-workers were incredibly uncomfortable working late, especially when two rapes were reported in a week during October 2021.

“Mustang Shuttle runs ’till 12, but the people who work there work until 12:30,” Harrington said. “I heard several employees come to me how uncomfortable it made them [to] work late. I’d just drive people. I’ll risk a ticket. Cal Poly is famous for being unlit at night.”  

During the forum, Riley and Holland also provided resources for students to better understand the Clery Act. 

“There is a lot more Cal Poly can put on its fingerprint for its process and program to look like,” Riley added. “It’s obvious to involve students’ voices as much as possible.”

Those interested in contributing input to the CSU-wide review can email Holland and Riley at mholland@cozen.com and driley@cozen.com.