This past Friday, UChicago hosted the first-ever Illinois Sexual Misconduct Conference at Ida Noyes Hall, bringing together speakers from various educational institutions in Chicago to discuss sexual misconduct.
Second-year Malay Trivedi, Student Government vice president for student affairs, organized the conference with the support of the University’s Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support. The keynote speaker of the event was Ann Scholhamer, the treasurer for Women’s March Chicago and organizer of the We March On Illinois Coalition.
“You are the ship captains that will be working alongside each other,” Scholhamer told the conference attendees in her opening speech. “The passengers on your ship are the millions of Illinois university students who for decades will move through the education system and rely on the work you do now to address sexual misconduct.”
The conference included several discussion panels and an open letter activity. The panels centered on topics like Title IX, sexual misconduct within the LGBTQ+ community, student activism, and relationship violence. Panel members offered advice based on their experiences as directors and specialists for sexual misconduct–related offices and student organizations from nine different universities.
The first panel after opening ceremonies was on “Demystification of Title IX,” and offered information concerning current Illinois law and federal guidance on Title IX proceedings.
Shea Wolfe, UChicago’s director of the Office for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Support and the deputy Title IX coordinator, and Tim Love, interim Title IX deputy coordinator at Loyola University, led the panel, focusing community approaches that have arisen to handle cases of sexual misconduct.
“At the heart of it [our office] is working with students one-on-one to ensure their needs are being met, that their concerns are being addressed,” Wolfe stated, in opposition to the idea that Title IX is overly bureaucratic. “We are making sure this campus is a safe place regardless of the frameworks out there.”
Another panel addressed sexual misconduct perpetrated against marginalized students, such as genderqueer and non-conforming ones. The panel was aimed at countering the idea that actions under Title IX are merely beneficial to cisgender white women. This panel was conducted by Kendra Malone, UChicago’s director of the Office for LGBTQ Student Life, and Michael Riley, the LGBTQA Resource Center coordinator at DePaul University.
“The violence they [trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people] experience is couched in a hate crime,” Malone said. “They are experiencing that violence because someone is projecting their disapproval of them as an individual.”
Alongside these panels, students helped write an open letter to Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker and Attorney General-Elect Kwame Raoul to oppose federal draft regulations that may interfere with current on-campus Title IX procedures.
If enacted, the draft regulations would recommend a higher evidence standard to find guilt in the proceedings than Illinois currently uses. The open letter claims this may cast further doubt on sexual misconduct survivors and their testimony. It also expresses concern that, under the draft regulations, students would be forced to confront their attackers in a court setting.
Trivedi said that attendees’ responses to the open letter and the conference were overwhelmingly positive.
“I heard overwhelmingly from participants in the conference…that they want to do this on their campuses,” Trivedi said. He added that, using their leadership positions, they hope to adapt this open letter and conference to differing on-campus climates.