BY JOHN GALLAGHER
As the Oct. 31 deadline for completing the mandatory Sexual Misconduct (Title IX) Training video course on Blackboard swiftly approaches, members of Franciscan University’s administration and staff provided comments on the purpose for this initiative.
“We recognize that it’s an inconvenience,” said Brenan Pergi, vice president of Human Resources. “We hope that the program is consistent with our identity … at Franciscan, and we’ve gone to great lengths to do that.”
Pergi acknowledged the difficulty in completing the lengthy video training, but maintained the value of the program, saying, “In doing this, it will decrease the prevalence of abuse.”
The program itself was mandated by governmental, not academic, legislation, he said.
“Ultimately, the federal government controls federal aid, like student loans,” said Pergi. “We have to comply with these laws as a matter of receiving those funds from the federal government.”
Title IX, widely regarded by students as federal law that regulates equity and athletics, has recently focused on “issues related to sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment, dating violence,” explained Pergi.
He said, “Under Title IX, universities are required to provide an environment that is free from discriminatory harassment. An environment that fosters any sort of sex-based harassment or violence is not appropriate.”
All new students and employees must be trained according to Title IX standards in order to receive continued funding, Pergi said. From district coordinators to disciplinary boards to employee baseline training to basic student information, each tier of employment is trained appropriately in order to adequately handle that for which their training prepares them, he said.
The higher standards that Franciscan maintains affected the type of training administered to students, said Pergi.
He said, “A lot of schools will focus their training on consent…a different standard than we have here, which is why the training we had put together was custom-mixed to reflect our culture and our identity to the greatest extent.”
In order to further inform students as to campus security information and concerns, an annual security report is published, said Pergi. The report comes complete with recent safety statistics and updated policies, danger prevention tips and contact information in the event of necessary assistance, he continued.
John Pizzuti, deputy for Campus Safety and Compliance, also said that in order to further ensure the security of all students on campus, Franciscan’s own security has formed a partnership with local authorities.
“We also have a memorandum of understanding with the local Steubenville Police Department,” said Pizzuti. “In essence it’s a cooperation agreement that we’re going to work together in the responsibilities of our campus security and law enforcement, and we’ll work hand-in-hand in situations.”
Before either campus security or local authorities involve themselves in a situation regarding abuse or harassment, students have the opportunity to make a difference, said Pizzuti.
He stressed bystander intervention as a means of diffusing an abusive situation, saying, “In essence, get up and take a stand. If you see something, say something.”
Pergi said, “It teaches students how to step up and intervene when they see these (types) of issues.”
Catherine Heck, assistant president of Student Life, connected Franciscan’s system of beliefs to participation in the training program.
She said, “The video challenges us to think about ways we can grow in virtue. … It reminds us that all of us have a responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to participate in creating a safe environment and in standing for the dignity of each person.”
Zach May, sophomore sacred music major, commented on the practicality of the program for all students.
“I think that the training provided by the university shows us how to live the truths of our faith practically, in our everyday lives here at Franciscan,” he said.
Pergi said, “It will give people an opportunity to demonstrate mercy, in having a better understanding of what victims experience.”