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Social Experiment at IC Focuses on Title IX

Title IX informational brochure created by Ithaca College students

Key Points

  • Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding, including Ithaca College
  • IC students are working to educate others so they know their Title IX rights
  • Social experiments can act as a mirror on how we treat others on and off campus

Ithaca College senior Olivia Brush was inspired by April’s theme: national sexual assault awareness month. Brush wanted to teach people about their rights when it comes to Title IX.

“I hope people know what their resources are, and have more knowledge of Title IX,” said Brush.

Brush (pictured left) and Nunziata (pictured right) during the presentation

Title IX is a policy that is in effect at all colleges and universities that receive any amount of federal funding, including Ithaca College. It states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination.” This discrimination includes protection from sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault.

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Ithaca College Flowchart of what to expect after reporting an assault incident

Know Your Rights

Candace Cross, a junior Public and Community Health major, wasn’t aware of her rights under Title IX.

“I’m aware of Title IX, however I don’t know how to use it. And I feel like that’s a problem,” Cross said.

Brush wanted to change that, knowing that there are many more students like Cross who do not fully understand their rights.

She met Claudia Nunziata in a sociology course Intergroup Dialogue on Gender taught by Sarah Grunberg and Derek Adams at Ithaca College. Nunziata and Brush had a tremendous task for their final: find or take issue with something on campus in the Ithaca community, and do something about it and try to change it.

During their group dialogues they kept coming back to Title IX on campus.

“Since we were a group predominantly female,” said Nunziata, who then doubled back, “or who identify as female. We knew people who’ve experienced it and we’ve experienced sexual harassment and catcalling.”

They took issue with sexual assault on campus. However, the two didn’t even know how to begin to dissect and solve such a heavy and broad topic. So they focused on educating their campus on Title IX.

The women came up with three ideas: a social experiment, an educational presentation, and a brochure.

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The front of their brochure
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The back of their brochure

Calculated Catcalling

For the experiment they recruited a handful of actors, had one catcall another, and recorded them on their iPhones.

Nunziata said, “We did the experiment to see if someone was going to say something. Ithaca is a liberal bubble. So you would think someone stand up and say ‘Hey you shouldn’t be doing that. Don’t objectify her! She has rights.'”

One actor called an actress over, saying he wanted to “talk to her.” The actress would refuse and demonstrated that she was in a relationship by holding another actor’s hand (this ranged from girlfriend to boyfriend). He became more persistent saying things ranging from “nice ass”  to “let me convince you.” They ran this experiment for two hours in the Pub at IC, outside of Freshens, and at Whalen, to see if anyone would interject and defend the actress.

Only one person did.

“We wanted to expose people to what could happen on campus. But also exposing themselves to themselves of how they didn’t stand up and didn’t stop the issue from happening,” an exasperated Brush said, “Except for that one dude. ”

DeVos isn’t Fine with Title Nine

Brush and Nunziata chose to focus on Title IX because it has been under attack by the Trump administration, specifically by United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In September of 2017, DeVos abolished Obama-era aspects to the Title IX law. One aspect is that schools are no longer obligated to address sexual harassment or sexual violence, another aspect is protection of transgender individuals. The decision received backlash from many students and lawmakers, including Bernie Sanders. 

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But Brush isn’t completely discouraged, “We just want to keep people informed about Title IX and keep the conversation going, even if the government wants to put an end to the policy.”


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