Q&A – Talking Title IX with new campus coordinator
David Blom became the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Title IX Coordinator in August, returning to the campus where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1979.
Previously, Blom worked as associate director of the Office of Equity and Diversity at Purdue University Calumet, a regional campus of the Purdue University system. Among other responsibilities, Blom served as deputy Title IX coordinator. Before that, he worked for 25 years at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, the federal agency charged with enforcing Title IX at institutions of higher education.
Blom’s office is located in 190 Bascom Hall. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
We posed some questions to Blom about Title IX, his position and how it serves the campus community.
Q. What is Title IX and how has it evolved?
A. Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance, such as the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The Title IX implementing regulations themselves have not changed much since their initial adoption in 1975. However, the federal government’s interpretation of what the Title IX implementing regulations require and the areas of Title IX compliance on which the federal government has focused have shifted from time to time.
For example, when the law was first passed and for many years afterward, the most common way in which Title IX was applied was related to its provisions pertaining to the operation of intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics programs. More recently, the focus of the federal government has been on making sure institutions understand that Title IX requires them to promptly and equitably address sexual harassment and sexual assault, including student-on-student sexual misconduct, even if the police are investigating the same behavior.
Q. What does a Title IX coordinator do?
A. The Title IX implementing regulations require each educational institution to designate at least one person to “coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under” Title IX. That person is commonly referred to as a Title IX coordinator.
As the Title IX coordinator for the University of Wisconsin–Madison, it is my job to ensure that the university is acting proactively to prevent sex discrimination from occurring in any of the university’s programs or activities and that the university is responding promptly and appropriately to all reports it receives about potential acts of sex discrimination, including sexual assault.
There are six other people on campus who have graciously volunteered some of their time to assist me in this process by serving as deputy Title IX coordinators. They are: Fred Fotis, director of residence life, Terry Gawlik, senior associate athletic director for sports administration, Jaimee Gilford, director of Clery compliance, Tonya Schmidt, assistant dean of students, director of student Title IX and Clery compliance, Patrick Sheehan, employment relations program coordinator, and Patricia Villarreal, special assistant to the provost and complaint investigator. In addition, Luis Piñero, assistant vice provost for workforce equity and diversity and director of the Office for Equity and Diversity, who served as the Title IX coordinator before my arrival, remains actively involved in Title IX matters.
Q. Has the position taken on increased importance in the current higher education environment?
A. I think that is fair to say, although the position has been required by Title IX since the implementing regulations were first adopted in 1975.
Given the attention being paid to the problem of sexual violence on college campuses and the federal government’s reminder to colleges that they must address acts of sexual violence as possible Title IX violations, regardless of whether those acts are also being treated as crimes, institutions of higher education have been re-examining their Title IX policies and procedures to ensure they are sufficient to fulfill that responsibility.
In many cases, this has led institutions of higher education to create stand-alone Title IX coordinator positions so that the Title IX coordinator’s efforts to ensure the institution is meeting its Title IX compliance obligations are not undercut by competing job responsibilities. The University of Wisconsin–Madison is one of the institutions that has taken this step.
Q. Under what circumstances should a member of the campus community contact you?
A. Anyone who has a question about Title IX should feel free to contact me. I want to be viewed as a campus resource that people can access whenever they need information about Title IX or related topics. I can also assist in the development and delivery of training programs regarding Title IX.
Certainly, if someone believes they have been subjected to sex discrimination or sexual harassment, including sexual assault or other sexual misconduct, or, if someone has witnessed an act of sex discrimination or sexual harassment, they should contact me to discuss options for having the matter addressed.
Q. What other campus units do you collaborate with?
A. I am available to collaborate with any unit on campus. Certainly our Title IX obligations extend to every unit on campus. So far, the offices I’ve worked most closely with include the Dean of Students Office, University Housing, the Office for Equity and Diversity, University Health Services, Human Resources, and the UW–Madison Police Department.
University Health Services, including End Violence on Campus (“EVOC”), is designated as a confidential resource and does not share information with me about specific disclosures of sexual harassment or sexual assault. UHS and EVOC do, however, provide general feedback about university procedures and trends they observe in their practice. In addition there are several other units and groups I’ve worked with as well, and I’m looking forward to additional collaborations in the future.
Q. What is the process when someone contacts you with a complaint or concern? What should people expect when they contact you?
A. In some ways, it will depend on the nature of the complaint or concern. My initial goal will be to discuss options for responding to their complaint or concern and to discuss resources on campus outside the Title IX coordinator’s office that might be able to assist. I will try to provide them with the information they need to decide how they want to proceed. Depending upon the information shared, I may be legally required to initiate a formal investigation. Individuals who believe they have been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual violence cannot be compelled to participate in such an investigation. If an individual has questions about the investigatory process or what resources are available on campus, they are welcome to meet with me to ask questions without disclosing details about their experience. Resources are available regardless of whether a formal report of sexual harassment or sexual assault is made.