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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

‘Making our college campuses safer is a top priority’: New bill aims to strengthen Title IX in California colleges

Senator Dodd’s SB 1166 expands on previous Title IX reforms
An+official+voter+information+guide+at+Sac+State%E2%80%99s+Vote+Center+for+the+Tuesday%2C+March+5%2C+2024%2C+primary+election.+While+SB+1166+is+not+on+this+ballot%2C+it+is+expected+to+be+discussed+in+a+policy+meeting+this+month.+
Malachi Parker
An official voter information guide at Sac State’s Vote Center for the Tuesday, March 5, 2024, primary election. While SB 1166 is not on this ballot, it is expected to be discussed in a policy meeting this month.

On Feb. 14, California State Senator Bill Dodd introduced Senate Bill 1166, which aims to strengthen Title IX on UC, CSU and community college campuses.

Title IX was first implemented in 1972, and aims to protect individuals from sex-based discrimination in educational institutions that receive funding from the federal government. The California State Auditor’s 2023 report found “various problems with campuses’ handling of [Title IX] cases” across the California State University campuses.

“Right now, we have deficient standards and transparency in the investigation and reporting process,” Sen. Dodd said in a statement. “There’s a serious lack of consistency and accountability from those in charge.”

SB 1166 works in conjunction with SB 808, another 2023 bill sponsored by Sen. Dodd. SB 808 requires the CSU to report to the Legislature any Title IX-related investigations, formal complaints, and outcomes of sexual harassment reports.

SB 808 also requires the CSU to post an annual report of these findings on its website to provide transparency to the public.

Should the bill become law, Sacramento State could see changes to how it handles sexual assaults and other sex-based crimes on campus.

“The CSU’s non-discrimination policy is what we are all bound to,” Senior Complaint Officer at the Office for Equal Opportunity, Britnie Hopkins, said. “That’s based off of state regulations around Title IX.”

Hopkins has worked in Title IX for five years at two CSU campuses. She said that because all public California college campuses are subject to California’s Title IX policies, SB 1166 could help maintain protocol consistency across campuses.

“We’re such a large state that it can help to have everyone on the same page,” Hopkins said.

In regard to Sac State specifically, Hopkins said the campus has a solid Title IX system in place, abiding by the state policies while also establishing its own set of internal protocols. Hopkins also said that the Office for Equal Opportunity is always seeking improvement.

“We have a system that we’re constantly evaluating to make sure it’s what’s working for us,” Hopkins said. “Even though a system is working, there’s always time to reflect back and see how we can improve upon it.”

Hopkins said that while Sac State does well at addressing Title IX issues after they happen, the OEO is invested in figuring out ways to prevent them before they occur. Sen. Dodd also said this in his statement.

“Making our college campuses safer is a top priority,” Sen. Dodd said. “And it starts by improving the way we prevent and monitor these disturbing incidents.”

Vanessa Hjelden, a fourth-year chemistry major, said the increased transparency suggested by the bill appealed to her. She feels that students receive very little information about Title IX issues and should be better informed.

Aileen Torralba, also a fourth-year chemistry major, recalled the multiple sexual assaults that occurred on Sac State campus during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“With multiple assaults back-to-back, [the school] would tell us,” Torralba said. “They would never really follow up until the end.”

RELATED: TIMELINE: Sexual assault at Sac State

While Title IX addresses the legal side of sex-based discrimination and violence, other resources exist to aid individuals through the emotional and psychological factors that come with those experiences.

Laura Swartzen, manager of the Prevention & Education Department at When Everyone Acts Violence Ends. WEAVE is an organization that supports and protects survivors of sexual assault, making sure they have equitable accessibility, resources and care.

One of these resources is providing student survivors with confidential campus advocates who can support them through the Title IX process.

“Even though Title IX may be an option, it can be a hard option for survivors to choose,” Swartzen said. “It can sometimes be retraumatizing and emotionally exhausting.”

Swartzen said she appreciates that Title IX ensures survivors feel supported not only through the Title IX office, but also by referring them to WEAVE, Student Health & Counseling, CARES and other like programs.

“I really see Title IX trying to shift on how they support survivors and making sure that they are well-versed on all of the resources Sac State has to offer,” Swartzen said. “Title IX does a really good job at referring students to the proper level of care.”

SB 1166 is still in its early stages, and aside from Sen. Dodd’s statement that the bill will incorporate “key recommendations” from the State Auditor’s report, specifics are still hazy.

Swartzen hopes that training will be one of those recommendations included in SB 1166.

“I think every staff member of Title IX needs to have truly extensive training around trauma-informed care,” Swartzen said. “When you are working with survivors, it’s important that you also have an understanding of how a survivor is going to be impacted through the whole Title IX process.”

Swartzen emphasized empathy, harm reduction, accessibility and transparency as necessary to a reformed Title IX.

“All of those things are vital for a real change to actually take place,” Swartzen said. “And I do see Sac State’s Title IX department trying to make those movements.”

SB 1166 is expected to be discussed in a policy meeting mid-March.

For students who may have experienced sex-based crime, resources are available through the Office for Equal Opportunity, WEAVE and Student Health and Counseling websites.

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Micah Yip
Micah Yip, News Staffer
(he/him) Micah Yip is a DEI staffer for The State Hornet. He is a political science/journalism major and is working towards a career in political journalism. Micah is passionate about advocating for positive change through his work and is driven by his firm belief in journalism’s power to uncover truth, expose injustices and shed light on issues that demand attention. Micah has previously written for pop culture news websites CBR and Goalcast.
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