| YOUNG VOICES
Article and photos by Andrea Valadez
On the heels of a statewide report criticizing the handling of sexual harassment complaints at the California State University system, officials at California State University, Monterey Bay held a Title IX town hall to provide community members an insight into the restructuring of the office.
The town hall took place at the World Theater on Sept. 28, before an audience of about 50 people that included President Vanya Quiñones. Otter Media requested to broadcast the public meeting, but was denied.
Title IX is a federal law that protects all students, staff and faculty from sex and gender discrimination. On university campuses, it also serves as a form of reporting sexual harassment and assault, with the presumption that a school’s Title IX office will investigate all complaints and take appropriate action based on their findings.
California State University contracted law firm Cozen O’Connor in March 2022 to conduct a system-wide investigation following a USA Today report that former CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro had mishandled reports of sexual harassment while serving as president of CSU Fresno. The report found that CSUMB’s Title IX office had been failing students, faculty and staff for years. According to the report, the university’s Title IX program was understaffed, undertrained and had inadequate communication.
During a yearlong investigation into all 23 CSU campuses, the 13-page report found that CSUMB did not have any completed Title IX investigations during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. The office’s lack of productivity is partly contributed to the fact that more staff were submitting Title IX complaints than students; many students do not even know where the Title IX office is located on campus (building 201, suite 211).
CSUMB Title IX Director Racquel Bonilla said during the town hall that all pending cases and documents prior to the release of the report have been reviewed, and none currently merit an investigation. If any community members wish for their case to be looked at again, they can file a new claim or contact Bonilla directly.
The report suggested that CSUMB should hire more personnel for the office, as it currently only consists of two people: Title IX Coordinator and Director Bonilla, and the training and support specialist, Amy Gessler. Among many other things, the Cozen report suggested that CSUMB update the Title IX website to state clearly the Title IX guidelines, as well as launching a marketing campaign that would improve campus understanding of how the office can support both students and employees.
Bonilla spent a good amount of time explaining the exact circumstances that fall under Title IX law, and what can be referred to Human Resources or the school’s ombudsman, Johnny Armijo. The ombudsman is equipped to mediate and help resolve conflict; Armijo can also help a student get a “no contact order” if they are being harassed but the issue hasn’t been elevated to a Title IX concern yet.
Bonilla also reiterated that gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are protected under the law.
"The Title IX office has had a lot of support from the president and other campus offices … we continue to collaborate and have that support from leadership.” CSUMB Title IX Director Racquel Bonilla
Students, faculty or staff who feel they have been sexually harassed or discriminated against should report when and where the allegation occurred, with as many details as possible. It’s also helpful to let the office know if there were any witnesses to the harassment. There is a reporting tool on the Title IX web page of the CSUMB website.
While they are waiting on the next steps from the Chancellor’s Office, Bonilla said that “the Title IX office has had a lot of support from the president and other campus offices … we continue to collaborate and have that support from leadership.”
An earlier version of this story was published in the Lutrinae.
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