University of New Hampshire’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program and Women’s Studies department invited Sage Carson to campus to talk about student activism and Title IX on Wednesday, April 10. Carson is the manager of Know Your IX, a survivor and youth-led program that teaches students about Title IX, and got her start in activism after protesting a mishandled case of sexual harassment at the University of Delaware.
Carson started off the night by defining Title IX for the group, and what that means for schools, perpetrators and survivors. Title IX guarantees equality in education, no matter the circumstances. This includes student-athletes and pregnant/parenting students, but the thing that people often associate Title IX with is sexual assault and violence. Carson used the words “gender violence” because it covers a wide array of behaviors such as stalking, online harassment, rape and sexual assault, while also acknowledging that this type of violence happens across all genders.
One in three high schoolers experience dating violence, while one in five women, one in 20 men, and one in four college students experience sexual violence. This can lead students to experience negative psychological and emotional impacts, social isolation, high dropout rates and financial consequences.
Since Title IX has been in place, schools have to get involved in these cases when they are reported. Carson explains that schools can meet the needs of survivors in different ways than cops can. Under Title IX students have a right to an education, free reasonable accommodations, a no-contact order and to know their legal options. If these rights are violated, students have a right to organize protests and attempt to change policies. Carson took the group of students through the process of how to promote change on campus.
In order to have a good policy, it must have transparency, prevention, services, investigations and sanctions. Carson suggested putting out a climate survey at least every two years to get an idea of where the campus climate is. If a school’s policy does not cover these requirements then students are encouraged to form teams or groups to promote change. Carson says that teams that include a variety of experiences can lead to many creative solutions.
Carson proves survivor activism. This type of activism focuses more on the survivor and their experiences and stories to find solutions. This also gives gender violence survivors a place to go and feel safe, even if they don’t feel comfortable sharing their stories. Survivor activism also puts more of a spotlight on marginalized survivors such as students of color or students in the LGBTQ+ community.
When growing these groups students can petition, phone bank, or canvas for their cause. Getting long term employees to work with your organization as well as mentoring younger students can ensure the longevity of your group and goal.
In terms of strategy, Carson recommends keeping in mind the three T’s; Targets, timelines and tactics. While setting these up may not feel like activism, they are setting the foundation to have a stronger voice and goal. Setting long, intermediate and short term goals, and breaking down demands can make objectives easier to understand from outside perspectives.
The timing of group protests is also importing in creating change. Picking a time that does not conflict with other protests but also a time that will get a lot of attention is critical. Carson said, “these are my favorite tactics.” Organizing press releases, demonstrations and good visuals are also important when trying to gain traction in a movement.
While Carson focused on Title IX when talking about protests and groups, Erica Vazza, the outreach and training coordinator for SHARPP, reminded the group that these tactics and organizing ideas do not only apply to Title IX, but to any organization trying to make a difference.
Students who want to know more about Title IX can visit knowyourix.org.