While many offices and departments on campus have shut down or modified their hours of operation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Title IX office has been deemed “essential” and remains open.
“I know we are all stressed out at the moment,” said Fanak Baarmand, Florida Tech’s Title IX coordinator and risk and compliance manager. “I want to make sure that students know they can call, email or come to my office whenever they need my assistance.”
Baarmand said that her focus lately has been to provide accommodation for complainants and respondents during these “concerning times regarding COVID-19.” She also emphasized that her schedule is flexible, and she is here to help students in any way that she can.
According to Baarmand, Florida Tech’s Title IX office hearing process remains the same with some added precautions being taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Baarmand mentioned a hearing that occurred at the end of March, noting that certain precautions were taken to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines such as only having five people in a room, holding the hearing in a larger conference room and remaining six feet apart from one another. Baarmand added that typically there are no more than seven to eight individuals involved in the hearing process.
“The health and safety of students, employees and our hearing officer is our priority,” Baarmand said. “I will do my best not to delay cases, and I want to make sure that students know that the Title IX office remains open for business and is fully operational.”
Nashaita Patrawalla, a graduate student in biomedical engineering and treasurer and outreach coordinator for It’s On Us — a student organization that aims to raise awareness for sexual assault on college campuses— said that she believes Florida Tech’s Title IX office is doing everything it can to help students during these difficult times.
“Certain operations on campus are still providing resources in light of changes and still functioning,” Patrawalla said.
Kristina Larsen, an attorney based in California and advocate for those harassed in the workplace, said she believes that COVID-19 will lead to a slow down of the Title IX process.
“The pandemic has slowed down everything in life though,” Larsen said. “In theory, this [COVID-19] should not affect student complaints or investigations, but I think it is inevitable.”
Larsen added that despite the potential slow-down, there are bigger systemic issues that Title IX offices face nationwide such as under-staffing.
While Florida Tech’s Title IX office remains operational, Patrawalla added that It’s On Us is also working hard to educate students about sexual assault on campus.
With April being sexual assault awareness month, Patrawalla said that It’s on Us had originally organized a week full of events and activities. However, due to changes on campus because of the coronavirus, the organization has since had to cancel and modify the activities that they had planned.
The “wear teal campaign” is aimed to raise awareness by encouraging others to wear teal and take a stand against sexual assault. Patrawalla said that the Florida Tech It’s On Us chapter plans on hosting their wear teal campaign on April 30, and encourages students to share their participation by posting pictures of them wearing teal on Instagram and tagging Florida Tech’s It’s on Us account, @itsonusatfloridatech.
Another effort being made by It’s On Us is during sexual assault awareness month is the promotion a pledge. The pledge asks students to be dedicated to helping create a culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support.
Click here to view the pledge.