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From regulation to ‘support system’: new coordinator wants to shift student perspective on Title IX


Forum reporter Madison Ostergren sits down with Kat Thomas, Westminster College’s new Title IX Coordinator, to discuss her desire for a shift in student perspective on Title IX. (Video by Madison Ostergen)

When most students and the larger Westminster College community hear the words “Title IX” there is sometimes an uncomfortable feeling of fear or uneasiness that arises.

Each semester students receive a course syllabus containing the Title IX regulations and many do not bother to read through it.  

Chance Beutler, a sophomore economics major, said he doesn’t thoroughly read the multiple pages in the syllabus but he said he does know that Title IX is in place for the protection of students on campus.

New Title IX coordinator Kat Thomas stands outside of her office building in Malouf on Jan. 29. Thomas said she wants the Westminster College community to know she is here to support them and provide resources to individuals going through any situation regarding Title IX. (Photo by Madison Ostergren)

After former Title IX Coordinator Jason Schwartz-Johnson left Westminster in September, the college appointed Joy Sarr as the interim Title IX coordinator until a permanent replacement was found. On Jan. 9, the college hired Kat Thomas as the new Title IX Coordinator.

Thomas said she wants “Title IX to be shifted to the idea of a support system for individuals versus something that’s uncomfortable or simply a compliance measure.”

She said that she is invested in streamlining the process for people to report an incident.

“The Title IX staff is here to support students and help them through the process that they choose to do,” Thomas said.

Because the Title IX policies are lengthy and easily skimmed over, Thomas sat down with The Forum to answer a few questions about Title IX, her role as the new coordinator and her experience at Westminster so far. Her responses have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.  

Q: Tell me a little about your background and your responsibilities as the new Title IX Coordinator at Westminster?

A: I am originally from Solana, TX. I most recently came from Stetson University, Florida. I am currently the Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity officer here at Westminster, and I started working on Jan. 9, 2019. My office is Malouf 107.

I am still settling in here, as I have only been here for only 20 some days. I am out here by myself, I don’t have any family or friends out here, but am making friends, and have already made some really great connections with other faculty and staff. Anyone is welcome to come see me in my office, Malouf 107, for support or anything you might need help with.

Q: What do you think the current perception of Title IX is of the campus community?

A: I think with Title IX, it can be this big overwhelming thing, that everyone’s like ‘oh we have to do this or we are going to get in trouble.’ But really what I would press upon students is that Title IX is here to make your campus safer. It is here to make your experience better. It’s here to make sure there is access for all students so that they don’t have to face gender-based or sexual misconduct on campus.

Q: If an individual is experiencing a situation regarding Title IX, what would you want them to know?

A: If a student is going through [a Title IX situation], there is a place they can go. We can provide resources and we can assist them through the process for whatever they choose to do with the situation. Title IX is an equity law. Not only are we are here to provide resources and be advocates, but we are also here to provide a fair process.

Q: What can students do if they feel they have an issue or want to report a problem?

A: While some people may think an issue isn’t a big deal in the moment, if it feels like a big deal, report it. There is no harm in reporting something. When in doubt write it out. You never know if what you went through is part of a bigger pattern. By reporting it, you are not only protecting yourself but also the rest of your campus community. You are helping provide a safer campus.

Q: What are the primary steps someone could take if they had Title IX related issue?

A: An easy technological way individuals are able to report an issue would be to fill out a form online where they can report an incident anonymously or not. A second way to report an issue would be by telling a staff, faculty member, or RA , and it will funnel its way back to me. Another way would be by coming to me directly in my office, Malouf 107.

Q: Any last comments?

A: I am really here to help guide individual’s through what their options are and then support them as they choose. I want to make it very clear and very easy for anyone to report anything.

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Madison Ostergren
Madison is that one crazy redhead on the Westminster Ski Team that you don't see very often on campus. Madison is a junior communication major, and if you are trying to find her, she is most likely somewhere in the mountains skiing, trail running, climbing or eating her homemade muffins.

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