Title IX and Student Discontent at BC


Abby Gaver

Students at Bridgewater College have expressed recent discontent around the implementation of Title IX. Students have expressed concerns about their safety and whether Title IX has been effective.

Abby Gaver, Web Editor

Bridgewater, Va.- Bridgewater College once again ranked in the top 25 safest college campuses in America by SafeAtLast and recently announced the hiring of new Title IX Coordinator & Director of Compliance Jennifer Hawkinberry. However, students at BC have recently expressed discontent with the Title IX process. 

 Title IX, part of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is a law regarding sex discrimination that was clarified under the Obama administration to include college responsibilities pertaining to sexual assault incidents on campus

“The college is committed to providing a learning and working environment free of sexual misconduct and discrimination and considers sexual discrimination in all its forms a severe offense, including discrimination against pregnant and parenting students, sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence by employees, students or third parties,” said Chief of Campus Police Milton Franklin.

Bridgewater College’s Title IX program takes multiple steps in processing Title IX reports made by a complainant, who may be the affected individual, a friend or a mandated reporter. 

“There’s a lot to the process when it comes to investigating a Title IX report,” said Title IX Coordinator & Director of Compliance Jennifer Hawkinberry. “An individual can file a report, and we will look at the form to determine whether the behavior falls in the purview of Title IX.”

For cases that fall outside the purview of Title IX, students are redirected to an applicable branch of Student Life, for example, Residential Life or Student Misconduct.

“Students want to know what their options are or want to know what happened with their Title IX case. We seek to honor the student’s requests and empower them,” said Hawkinberry. “We must also honor the confidentiality of individuals involved.”

However, there has been recent discontent among students on campus regarding the effectiveness of Title IX, which was highlighted in an anonymous social media post last month using the draw 25 meme. 

“All the stuff being told on [the Instagram account] is coming from the students, the people who are being affected,” said senior Shifa Tewari. “I’m actually kind of happy that they put that out there because it makes us more aware of the dangers on campus, and it also makes us aware of what the school is doing, or not doing, about all of it. It gives a space for students to really voice their opinions on things that BC won’t listen to us about. Comments and concerns don’t get deleted.”

Senior Adam Lorfink expressed relief that these topics were being brought up on the Instagram account.

“These cases get swept under the rug, and I think it’s about time things got said about this,” said Lorfink. “I used to be a Soar Mentor, and it seemed to me that the way cases were handled was very lackluster. It was kind of a band-aid over a bullet hole.”

Other viewers of the account were left disappointed in BC and expressed hope that these cases would be taken seriously.

“It saddens me hearing there are so many who allegedly have Title IX cases against them on campus, and that it seems like nothing is being done about it,” said senior Courtney Larrick. “I don’t think Student Life has done enough to address this issue, especially in regard to those who are still in positions of power. [The account] is doing a good job getting the word out on these issues.”

Students have expressed concerns regarding whether reporting cases would lead to a positive outcome for complainants.

“I don’t think that if something would happen to me or a peer on campus that anything would happen, even if they would report something,” said junior Jewelia Rodriguez. “It’s awful that it feels like even if a student speaks up, then nothing happens.”

Hawkinberry discussed the plausibility of anonymous reports made in social media.

“There is no way to clarify those. It comes back to online rumors, and individuals must decide whether they believe these rumors or not,” said Hawkinberry. “Regardless, the reports to Title IX are investigated thoroughly and taken very seriously.”

Tewari decided to attend Bridgewater College in 2019 after reading online that the school had been named the Safest College in Virginia by SafeAtLast

“When I was looking at schools, I was looking for safety. Bridgewater advertised that they were the safest school and that they had a Title IX department that took things very seriously, so I immediately jumped on that,” said Tewari. “Up until recently, with the complaints [on Instagram] and other situations I’ve noticed, I was all for Title IX. That façade of safety and security that I had coming into the school, it’s gone. I don’t feel safe walking back at night.”

Bridgewater College continues to be recognized as one of the safest colleges in Virginia as of 2022, despite student discontent.

In 2022, Bridgewater College was recognized by SafeAtLast as the safest College in Virginia and among the top 25 safest institutions in the U.S.,” said Franklin. “Our sworn and campus safety officers hold the safety of our students and campus dearly. Yet, we know evil exists, and preparation starts with ‘See Something, Say Something, and Do Something.’ Safety on campus is a community effort; everyone should feel empowered to report to Campus Police and Safety any concerning behavior.”

However, in terms of knowing the repercussions individuals face following Title IX reports, the protection of student confidentiality affects communication of possible actions or outcomes at the completion of cases.

“The caveat here is that we protect students’ confidentiality. The results of Title IX cases are not public, so we are not at liberty to discuss that,” said Hawkinberry. “Title IX and Student Conduct can implement sanctions against individuals, but still cannot be known by campus in general.”

Hawkinberry started at Bridgewater College in September 2022, but was officially introduced to the student body as the Title IX Coordinator & Executive Director of Compliance in an email sent out by Dean Leslie Frere on Oct. 26. 

“I’m very passionate about Title IX and I want to make sure students are being treated fairly and equitably. I place value in the process, and I want to help students. ” said Hawkinberry.

According to Frere, Hawkinberry has experience in developing and implementing Title IX education and training programs, as well as in the conduction of Title IX investigations.

“I hope this Title IX coordinator really understands that if we are trusting an institution to help us with this, they need to step up to help us and not brush things under the rug or continue to employ people with Title IX cases against people,” said Tewari. 

Students who have a safety concern can contact Campus Police and Safety’s on-duty officer at 540-578-0652 or 911 if you are experiencing an emergency. Students can also complete the online Anonymous Report and Tips

“I hope that survivors are able to get the support that they need and that they can feel comfortable with implementation of Title IX,” said Larrick.

Students can also contact the Title IX Coordinator at 540-828-8063 or can make a report through the online form.