MSJC’s Title IX Office Helps Students

Lily Diephouse, Writer/Secretary

Did you know that in June of 1972, President Richard M. Nixon signed an omnibus education bill that would help women for many years to come? The Higher Education Act of 1965 was signed into law, and there was a long list of educational amendments, anti-business regulations, and federal financial aid support programs included in the bill. One of these amendments was Title IX, which provided mechanisms to ensure women’s equal access to education. As a result, Title IX must be followed by all public and private elementary, middle, and high schools, school districts, colleges, and institutions receiving any type of federal funding.

Given that almost every school is required to have a Title IX office for student support, MSJC is no exception. MSJC’s Title IX office is coordinated by Meaghan Kauffman. I connected with Meaghan in an interview to learn a little more about the MSJC Title IX office, and what she does there. She explained that she moved to California in November 2021 to start working at MSJC. She formerly taught college success as an Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Leadership at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and worked in risk management for a gender-inclusive honor fraternity. Her qualifications in Title IX stem from when she previously worked as a volunteer investigator for Title IX at the institution where she was employed.

As the Title IX Coordinator, Meaghan has many responsibilities. She explains, “as Title IX Coordinator, I am responsible for ensuring that MSJC’s response to reports of sex or gender-based misconduct complies with federal and state laws. This includes connecting with students who experience misconduct with support, information, and resources, as well as ensuring that all members of the MSJC community are well-informed about District policy and the law as it relates to sexual harassment and discrimination.” 

So, what exactly is Title IX and what does the office do? Meaghan states, “Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program that receives funding from the federal government. Title IX, along with related California laws, ensures an equitable process for investigating and adjudicating incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and other sex or gender-based misconduct.” When a student encounters any of these events, either on or off campus, they can get help from the Title IX Office by getting in touch with Meaghan directly at [email protected] or (951)374-0539. 

There are many ways that students can receive help from the Title IX office. Through the Title IX Office, any student who has been accused of engaging in sex- or gender-based misbehavior can get access to supporting measures. These supports include:  referrals to local organizations or mental health services, campus escorts, and other services. The process of choosing the most beneficial supportive measures for a student, given their experiences and needs, includes an involved conversation.

Students may not be comfortable enough to email, call, or go into the office. However, this is not something anyone should be worried about. There are ways that students can anonymously report sexual harassment or gender-based misconduct. The Title IX reporting form, which is available on MSJC’s Title IX website, allows for anonymous reporting of sex- or gender-based misbehavior. Anyone with information about an incident is encouraged to report it, and the majority of MSJC staff members, including all teachers, are obligated to do so at the Title IX Office. 

There is no need to be uncomfortable or feel like a student cannot receive help because many students have benefited from both previous and current Title IX office support. According to Meaghan, “approximately a dozen students who have experienced some type of sex or gender-based misconduct have accessed resources through the Title IX Office this semester. A number of these students experienced domestic violence at home and were connected with local agencies who specialize in working with survivors of interpersonal violence.” After an incident, students who have used the Title IX tools have expressed how much it meant to them to be able to weigh their alternatives and continue their education.

In order to assist students after they report an incident, the Title IX Office conducts investigations. Meaghan states that during an investigation, “it is my role to reach out to a student, or another member of the MSJC community, who is reported to have experienced any type of sex or gender-based misconduct. This includes conducting an intake interview to gather information about that person’s experience and providing information about possible next steps. Making a report doesn’t automatically initiate an investigation, so I work with the person who experienced the misconduct, which we call the complainant, to assist them in filing a complaint. Investigations are typically conducted by a third party, like an attorney, who specializes in investigating sexual harassment and discrimination. My role is to oversee the entire grievance process, including the investigation, to ensure that everyone involved is well informed throughout the process and is treated equitably.” 

Students can expect to get clear and thorough information about their options and access to support when communicating with the Title IX Office. People who have experienced sex or gender-based misbehavior are made aware of district policy and the potential next steps by the MSJC Title IX Office.

Students who have any questions about the MSJC Title IX Office, or want to reach out for help can email Meaghan at [email protected]. They can also reach her by phone at (951)374-0539 or by filling out the Title IX reporting form. Meaghan is also available for virtual and in-person meetings at any campus.