Stony Brook approaches new SUNY resolution to support LGBT student-athletes

When former Stony Brook University volleyball coach Theresa Tiso arrived on campus for her job interview in 1981, she noticed something different.

“I’m walking across campus to the interview and I see a sign with the fist that says ‘gay pride’,” she said. “I saw it all over and it was just accepted, and that turned the way that I looked at Stony Brook.”

Now, after coaching for 19 years and teaching physical education and physical therapy for 15, Tiso, who currently teaches Sociology of Sport at Stony Brook, is thrilled to see that the State University of New York (SUNY) is joining the movement to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) student-athletes.

On October 25, 2014, the SUNY Faculty Senate passed a resolution, which requests that all SUNY institutions with athletic programs develop programs to support LGBT student-athletes, coaches and staff and prevent anti-LGBT bias and discrimination for the 2015-2016 academic year. According to the resolution, 55 of the 64 SUNY campuses have athletic programs, making up nearly 800 teams with 14,000 student-athletes.

“It’s been an issue for many, many years,” Tiso said.  “We’ve talked about it but usually it was so marginalized as a topic or it was a little tiny bit of the topic in athletics. Everybody knew about it but not everybody embraced it.”

The resolution comes less than a year after former University of Missouri and St. Louis Rams football player Michael Sam revealed his sexuality in February 2014 before the National Football League (NFL) Draft, making him the first publicly gay football player in the NFL and bringing the topic of sexuality in college and professional sports to light.

The resolution

An associate professor of Humanities, Timothy W. Gerken, at Morrisville State College, a SUNY school in upstate New York, produced the original draft of the resolution after learning not about Sam but instead that SUNY New Paltz was the only SUNY school participating in the Athlete Ally program. Gerken is also a member of the The Committee on Diversity and Cultural Competence in the SUNY Faculty Senate (UFS).

As per its website, the Athlete Ally program is a nonprofit organization that “provides public awareness campaigns, educational programming and tools and resources to foster inclusive sports communities.” 51 universities across the country are currently involved with the program.

“As far as I know, there are not any University systems that have adopted these policies,” Gerken said in an email. “However, most university systems have done a good job of ending bias against athletes of color and women. There is no reason why they can not move to address anti-LGBT bias.”

Gerken said that the resolution also presents SUNY with an opportunity to make college sports a more accepting place for LGBT athletes.

“SUNY may be doing a good job making campuses inviting for LGBTQAI students, I am still not sure that athletes and coaches are comfortable coming out to their teams,” he said. “SUNY has a chance to be a leader nationally by reaching out to all student athletes by reassuring them that if they come to a SUNY campus as an out athlete they will be treated the same as the rest of their teammates.”

None of the University Faculty Senators voted against the resolution, Gerken said, but some did abstain from voting. While he was unsure of their reasoning, UFS Senator Frederick Walter, who served as president of the Stony Brook University Faculty Senate for four years, said that abstentions are not always black and white.

“Some people abstain from voting because they don’t understand the issues,” Walter said. “Some because they think it may not go far enough or it may go too far.”

The resolution gives links to different organizations related to LGBT-issues in sports but makes no suggestions to the implementation of specific programs. Walter said that this may actually work in its favor because the resolution does apply to 55 SUNY campuses.

“Of course it’s vague,” Walter said. “There’s no way you’re going to get 60 or 80 senators to agree on something that’s too specific. It can’t be done. Vagueness can be a virtue.”

Stony Brook Athletics’ approach

Stony Brook University, which boasts NCAA Division I status for all 20 of its athletic teams, is among the 55 campuses that is about to embark on developing such programs.

For Women’s Lacrosse player Alyssa Guido, there’s never a feeling of discomfort within her team about the subject.

“My team loves it, they’re very open about it,” Guido said. “We all kid around and joke and they make me feel comfortable and I’ve never had a problem with coaches, players, other teammates, other teams in general.”

While the resolution is new, different members of the Athletics department already work  towards making Stony Brook a safe and accepting environment for its student-athletes and staff.

The conference that Stony Brook participates in, The America East, was the first NCAA conference to officially partner with the initiative. This past summer, several Stony Brook student-athletes created a video to show support for the cause, in which SBU volleyball player Laura Hathaway said, “I’m gay and I’m a Seawolf.”

Current graduate assistant to Athletics administration and former volleyball player Greta Strenger said Stony Brook’s student-athletes have been particularly involved in the You Can Play Project, which works towards “ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation,” according to its mission statement.

“All of our student-athletes have had a really positive experience with [the You Can Play Project],” Strenger said. “They’ve all sort of bought into the message and think it’s an important one to send to our department and the university community and fans as well.”

But the process is ongoing. Strenger and Executive Associate Director of Stony Brook Athletics Donna Woodruff both confirmed that the department will continue to participate in the You Can Play Project but is also working on further including diversity initiatives into its new five year strategic plan.

“Within that there’s a great commitment to diversity and throughout the department, whether it’s our student-athletes [or] staff,” Woodruff said. “So there will be some other things that we’ll make sure certainly stay at the forefront.”

As for LGBT support programs for the next academic year, Woodruff said that she sees the time as more of a reflection period for Athletics rather than a crunch time to meet a quota.

“I don’t think any resolution is saying that you have to develop 15 new things just for the sake of developing them,” she said. “The point is to make sure that athletic departments are aware that this is an important thing and if you’re already doing 15 things, then you’ve already met the resolution.”

The athletics departments at the University at Albany and Binghamton University, two other Division I SUNY institutions, were not able to be reached for comment.

Outside of Athletics

Walter said that during review of the resolution, some senators were curious about why it only targets SUNY athletic departments.

“I think there was some discussion on ‘why are we focusing in on athletics?’,” Walter said. “‘Why don’t we make this campus-wide?’”

John Martin, a graduate assistant in LGBTQ Services, explained that much more goes into making this initiative campus-wide than people realize.

“It takes labor,” Martin said. “You have to educate people. You have to put on trainings. You have to put on programs. That’s all hours of work.”

Martin pointed out that Binghamton University has “not a single professional staff person working in LGBTQ support services.”

The list of resources for LGBTQ students on Binghamton’s website shows links to student-run organizations, which Martin said have faculty advisors but it’s students advising other students. There are also links to several off-campus resources in the Binghamton area.

The description of Binghamton’s Safe Zone program says that “its mission is to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all LGBTQ people” and that “allies of the Safe Zone have undergone training and are supportive of LGBTQ individuals.” However, the link provided to Safe Zone program leads to a page that says the page cannot be found.

Chris Tanaka is Stony Brook’s Coordinator for LGBTQ Services. The 2014-2015 academic year is the first year that LGBTQ Services is its own stand-alone program. In previous years, LGBTQ Services fell under SBU’s Center for Prevention and Outreach. She is currently the only full time staff member working in LGBTQ Services. As a graduate student, Martin works in LGBTQ Services about 20 hours per week.

“We currently do have some non-discrimination policies in place that apply to the University as a whole so I guess it’s interesting that it’s just sort of targeting LGBTQ athletes,” Tanaka said about the resolution. “I’m all about having more programs that educate about gender and sexuality in general so if that’s just one more place that it’s happening, I’m all for it.”

Tanaka said that Stony Brook’s Safe Spaces program, similar to Binghamton’s Safe Zones, has a two part training with an introduction course and a workshop that are vital for an individual on campus to become an ally of LGBTQ individuals and be considered a “safe space.” Since its inception in 2008, Tanaka said that Stony Brook has trained around 400 individuals.

According to Walter, athletics departments and universities generally have an advantage in taking on projects like this resolution, which is often “not fair” to the general student body.

“Athletes are sort of a ‘pampered minority’,” Walter said. “The D-I athletes have a role to play for the university, they have to compete for the university, carry the university’s logo around the state and the country…It’d be fantastic if all of our students could be treated as well as the athletes are in terms of academic support but they aren’t. Why? Money. It’s no excuse for anything but we take care of them because they’re a small, isolated easily-identifiable subset of people. But for the general population, we don’t have the resources to treat everyone as well.”

Changing the game

Guido said that although her teammates are LGBT student-athletes, often times athletes may feel like they may create awkwardness within the team and therefore may not feel comfortable coming out or being open about their sexuality. “The team chemistry [might not] be there,” she said. “[There could be] inter-relationships, out-of-relationships, things just get uncomfortable for people, things like that.”

For Gerken, the resolution is more than just creating programs to boost awareness, but to also change the mindset on LGBTs in sports.

“We need to end homophobia on the field and in the locker rooms. There needs to be work done to end anti-LGBT language and discriminatory actions,” he said. “Many athletes that use this language may not realize they have LGBT teammates and may not even seem themselves as biased. The education these programs provide would help address these issues.”

Both Gerken and Tiso were coaching college sports (Gerken was a wrestling coach) 30 years ago and said that the outlook on LGBTs in sports has generally evolved for the better since then.

“I felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders when I came here [to Stony Brook],” Tiso said about when she took the coaching job at SBU. “I could see the inclusion, even if it wasn’t perfect, it was there. They’re such a diverse campus and working hard to include people.”

“Our society has changed,” Gerken said. “We need to keep changing. We will be successful when the question is simply “What is the most difficult part of being a student-athlete.”

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How Stony Brook University handles Title IX

By Rebecca Anzel, Giselle Barkley and Hanaa’ Tameez

Amidst an ongoing federal investigation into Stony Brook University’s handling of Title IX cases, many students are unfamiliar with the law and the method by which SBU investigates sexual harassment/violence claims that occur on its campus.

“Title IX—it sounds familiar but I can’t say what it is,” Mark Szklonicki, a junior health science major, said.

Other students, like junior biology major Ava Cazabonnet, junior psychology major Trini Joseph and senior mechanical engineering major Yash Vardhan Sharma, did not know what Title IX was, nor had they heard about the law or the investigation process before.

Due to what seems like a general lack of information and understanding in terms of Title IX and reporting sexual assault and harassment at Stony Brook, The Statesman compiled its findings in relation to the matter.

As part of the 1972 Education Act, Title IX is a federal clause prohibiting discrimination based on gender at any federally-funded educational institution, including about “16,000 local school districts, 3,200 colleges and universities, and 5,000 for-profit schools as well as libraries and museums,” according to the United States Department of Education website.

Stony Brook is a member of the State University of New York system and receives monetary support from both the state and federal government. Therefore, the institution must follow the rules outlined by Title IX.

The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Stony Brook on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Because the investigation is open and still ongoing, neither the University nor the OCR can comment on its progress or findings.

Reporting

Each year, university police departments are required to release an annual Clery Report. The report details all crimes that occurred on campuses and includes sexual assault-related crimes.

The 2014 Clery Report, which Stony Brook’s UPD released at the ending of September, states that on-campus rapes were reported six time in 2013. In addition, rapes that occurred in residential facilities  were reported five times last year. These reports have gradually increased over the last three years according to the Clery Report.

However, it is unknown whether reports have increased due to more rape or sexual assault related incidences at Stony Brook or because more victims are reporting these cases.

Despite the Clery Report and Stony Brook’s efforts towards educating students about Title IX, some students said universities are often hypocritical when they fail to disclose its own mistakes.

“The authority contradicts themselves and covers up what actually happens like incidences where Title IX is violated and [it’s] just for the sake of reputation,” Veronica Bognot, a junior philosophy and comparative literature major, said.

A university’s transparency regarding Title IX violations or sexual assault-related reports not only indicate its safety but also provides insight on how these incidences are handled.

“Telling the truth about high numbers makes a school safer, in my opinion, because it means they’re less likely to hide the truth, which is always a safer policy.  Schools with low numbers are dangerous because it means they are either discouraging victims from reporting and/or handling the cases under the radar,” Murphy said. “Both approaches put women at greater risk and send the message that violence against women is acceptable because the school will not take effective steps against offenders and or openly address and shame the behavior.”

The Process

Within the last year, SBU published on its University Community Standards website an interactive chart detailing to the process by which it handles all sexual harassment and abuse allegations. The process is broad and all-encompassing; it is not specific to sexual harassment and assault.

According to the chart, those making a complaint have 30 days to do so and can choose to go to the University Police Department, Office of Community Standards or the Title IX Director. From there, a University employee from the Division of Student Affairs office conducts an investigation into “whether further action is necessary.” This includes getting accounts of the situation from the alleged victim and assailant and any witnesses.

There are two possible outcomes at this point. In some cases, a written notice will be sent to the accused student notifying him or her of the specific charges and a hearing will be scheduled no sooner than ten days after that notice is sent. It is unclear if the written notice is sent out by post or by email.

The accused can “take responsibility” and waive the right to a hearing and accept the sanctions, according to the chart. If the student chooses to contest the allegations, he or she can appeal to start a hearing process. The type of hearing varies based on the severity of the accusation.

The second route is to hold a Disciplinary Counseling meeting, which will be scheduled between the student involved and a university official. It is unclear if the student called into the counseling meeting is the accuser or the accused.

The information presented in the chart seems to hold that any incident will always be between students but does not mention any changes in the process if one of the involved parties is, for example, a staff or faculty member.

Despite this lengthy process, many Stony Brook students are not aware of the initial steps of reporting a Title IX-related incident.

“I know that there is a hearing but, I didn’t know that it went through people who were running the Title IX stuff,”  senior psychology major Adil Ahmed said.

Many students, like Ahmed, said they would go to the University Police Department to report a Title IX-related incident. Although UPD conducts an investigation into a Title IX-related case after it is reported, they pass the information to the university’s Title IX office for further investigation.

Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor of sexual violence law at New England School of Law who spoke at a Title IX panel at Stony Brook last April, said in an e-mail she does not know of any university that “complies fully with Title IX.”

Misconceptions

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding Title IX—chief among them is the idea the clause only pertains to athletic programs at federally-funded higher education institutions.

Three others, as defined by an ESPN article, are that schools to must cut a number of male teams; Title IX ensures opportunities for female and male players are equal; and the monetary resources devoted to male and female teams must be equal.

According to the article, “schools must decide where to spend their money. And often, when they decide to cut non-revenue men’s sports—such as wrestling, swimming and tennis—it’s not so they can fund women’s sports, but rather so they can pump more money into football.”

In terms of equal amounts of spending on men’s and women’s athletic teams, there is nothing in Title IX that explicitly states schools need to spend the same amount of money on their women’s and men’s sports teams. Instead, its language specifies the difference in spending cannot be as a result of any discriminatory acts. Most all higher education institutions spend more money on men’s sports programs than on women’s.

“Sports are important, but they’re not more important than safety and equality in access to academics and education,” Murphy said.  “Put another way, raped women don’t need more basketballs.”

Educational programs

Stony Brook’s Director of Title IX and Risk Management Marjolie Leonard said the campus community is also often unaware as to how sexual assault is classified and handled. She jointly oversees the SBU Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination,” Leonard said during an impromptu interview with different Stony Brook media organizations on Wednesday, Oct.1, 2014. “In the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action, we address all forms of discrimination so it makes sense that it would be run together.”

Leonard has not been available for an interview since Oct. 1.

Leonard also said she and her department use a relatively new online training “Know Your Rights” program to better educate students. “One of the things that is really important that we have been doing and continue to do with this online training is equipping our students and employees with information and knowledge because a lot of people don’t know what their rights are and responsibilities are,” Leonard said. “They might not know what options we have available to them if they should be the victim of some type of sexual harassment or sexual violence, knowing what resources are available to them.”

The deadline to complete the mandatory training was Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. A hold is placed on the SOLAR accounts of students who do not complete it.

According to Murphy, training is not what will solve these problems on college campuses.

“Schools don’t need training and ‘advisors,’,” she said via e-mail. “They need transparency, accountability and effective oversight by state and federal agencies and state and federal courts.”

“Schools don’t need “training programs” about consent, and silly experts who “teach” officials how to apply boondoggle policies,” she continued. “They need simple, short and easy to use and understand policies that make it VERY clear that sexist violence is the SAME type of harm as racist violence, and ethnic violence, etc. THIS message, alone, will change things overnight – and the training necessary to make this point clear should be a program where ALL protected class issues are addressed at the same time.”

Students who took the “Know Your Rights: Discrimination and Violence Required Training”—like Ahmed and Szklonicki—had mixed reactions about the survey.

“I thought…that it was kind of a waste to be honest,” Ahmed said. “You ran through 10 slides and at the end they gave you questions.” Ahmed said despite the fact that the slides provided students with information, he “could only imagine that most people didn’t really re-read them.” However, he mentioned the questions in the survey were “good.”

While the survey touched upon some students’ previous knowledge about sexual assault, it also provided new pieces of information.

“I can’t say I learned anything I hadn’t known before. But it cleared up a few things,” Szklonicki said. Prior to the survey, Szklonicki did not know a woman could rape a man. “It’s not something that you would think could happen.”

This article was originally published in the Dec. 8, 2014 issue of The Statesman.

Jessica Ogunnorin: champion of change

Jessica Ogunnorin, above, comes to Stony Brook from Greece. The senior guard is vocal about her ability to embrace change. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

Jessica Ogunnorin, above, comes to Stony Brook from Greece. The senior guard is vocal about her ability to embrace change. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

Senior guard Jessica Ogunnorin is definitely a long way from home, but is making the most of her last season at Stony Brook.

Hailing from Athens, Greece, adjusting is what she does best. Before joining the Seawolves, Ogunnorin spent two seasons with the University of California–Riverside Highlanders. In California, she found her work was cut out for her.

“The major difference is athleticism,” she said. People here [in the United States] are stronger, faster, more explosive.”

But she also found the American players are more on her level. Eye-level, that is.

“I think something I had to deal with and understand was the difference in height,” Ogunnorin said. “I was always one of the tallest players back in Greece so I used to be the post back there. Then I come here and I see people my height playing the three position, so that was an adjustment.”

“One of the strongest parts of my game was rebounding, even back at home,” she said. “I’ve just embraced that and I love rebounding so it’s really one of my goals to rebound as much as I can whenever we play.”

After arriving at SBU, Ogunnorin had to adjust to new teammates and new coaches. Former head coach Beth O’Boyle’s departure meant more change, which she welcomed with open arms.

“I left my old school, I came here, I learned how to adjust to coaches,” Ogunnorin said. “At this point, I embrace changes, I think that changes are always for the better, so one of the things that’s really important is just buying into the new concepts, the new ways of playing, and we’ll get the best out of it.”

Ogunnorin said bringing her California experiences to New York only helped her grow as a player and a person.

“Prior to going to my last school, I hadn’t even been to the United States so it definitely helped me,” she said. “I learned a lot about the culture, the style of game, my first team was really a team full of athletes so it really prepared me for this conference and any conference I would go to. I learned a lot from that experience and I try to take everything that I learned from there and use it for the better.”

But after sitting out her sophomore season, she made a big impact at Stony Brook her junior year, which she started out unsure if she would even play.

“For me, it was really like a gift because I transferred from a D-I and we weren’t sure that I was going to play so I had to wait from the NCAA so I was really grateful for that,” Ogunnorin said. “Prior to last year, I had sat out so I was really glad I was given a chance to be part of the team that makes such history.”

Part of making Seawolves history included breaking Albany’s 38 conference game winning streak.  On March 1, 2014, Ogunnorin was the top scorer against Albany with 18 points, picking up nine rebounds along the way.

“It was a really big thing for us,” she said. “Albany is one of the best teams in the conference and we respect them and their work and everything. It was important for us to know that we’re able to do that and by being consistent and focused, we can have good results.”

But to be named to the America East All-Championship team, the work started on the West Coast.

“One of the main reasons I decided to come to the U.S. was to be challenged,” she said. It was really tough in the beginning as a freshman [because] I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I think the way I overcame that was by lifting, focusing on just getting stronger, eating better, just being in the best shape I could.”

Now as a senior, Ogunnorin said she wants to take on a larger leadership role on the team. This year, she and Sabre Proctor are the only two seniors on the roster.

“I want to be able to give back now,” she said. “All the things that I learned from transferring, different coaches…I told myself that I would give back, teach all the values and habits that I learned, and just try to be a really good role model for my teammates on the court and off the court.”

As for personal goals, Ogunnorin said she just wants to enjoy her last season as a college basketball player.

“I want to be the best athlete [I’ve become] all these years,” she said. “I told myself I want to have really good experiences and memories with my teammates and make the most out of it and give my all.”

This article was originally published in the Nov. 3 issue of The Statesman.

Stony Brook Halloween Festival entertains children in Village Center

Nearly 50 families gathered in the Stony Brook Village Center to participate in the 35th annual Halloween Festival on a cloudy Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 in Stony Brook, N.Y.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted the event, where the Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy was the main sponsor. Several shop and restaurant employees in the Village Center stood outside their respective businesses in costumes starting at 2 p.m. and offered candy and treats to both children and parents. Others manned tables with beanbag games or took charge of potato sack races.

“This is a perfect Halloween Festival for little ones,” WMHO President Gloria Rocchio said. “Most of the little ones don’t go out at night. The ages are very young, from babies up to maybe six or seven.”

Rocchio said that the event first started out small but over the years, it has become easier for the WMHO Communications office to book different acts and entertainment.  This year, WALK 97.5 FM provided music as well as a “Walkie Bear” blow-up bear for children to take photos with.

While the festival ended before sunset, preparations took place well ahead of time. Local boys and girls scout troops created different scarecrows for the scarecrow competition, which were put on display throughout the Village Center weeks before the event.

Amanda Trava, who works for The Suffolk Center, was dressed up as the Disney character Maleficent, while her coworkers came as different princesses. The Suffolk Center employees also took photos with children in addition to announcing the winners of the scarecrow competition.

“[My favorite part is] just seeing all the kids dressed up, giving out candy, seeing all the different scarecrows,” Trava said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

 At about 4:00 p.m., families took a break from trick-or-treating and gathered on the lawn in front of the Crazy Beans Cafe to watch three different Halloween-themed dances performed by the Spotlight Dance Academy. While some dancers wore their own individual costumes, another group donned zombie face paint for its dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

Many parents liked the activities for their children but also appreciated the safe environment on Halloween.

 “I come with my son almost every year,” Lorena Gonzalez from Shirley, N.Y. said.  “It’s very friendly and a safe Halloween.”

 But for the children, the social factor played a big part in the enjoyment of the day’s festivities.

 “It’s actually a nice day for all the kids who don’t have school to come around,” eight-year-old Stephen Mazelis, dressed as New York Rangers hockey player Rick Nash, from Smithtown, N.Y. said.  “While everybody’s at work and the public schools are all out of school and the kids from catholic schools from all around the world, probably, they always come here and have fun.”

 After the dances and the scarecrow competition awards, Monster Merlin, a wispy 12-foot bone-faced character, wrapped the celebrations by leading the Halloween parade throughout the Village Center.

 “What we try to do is bring a sense of community into the village,” Rocchio said. “This is the heart of Stony Brook Village and we think it’s great for families and their children.”

SUNY approves sexual assault prevention resolution

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged SUNY to pass a resolution outlining sexual assault prevention and response practices. (STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged SUNY to pass a resolution outlining sexual assault prevention and response practices. (STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO)

By Rebecca Anzel, Giselle Barkley and Hanaa’ Tameez

The State University of New York is taking steps to better combat sexual assault and violence across its 64 campuses. At Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s urging, the SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution on Friday, Oct. 2 to create a uniform set of prevention and response practices.

“I don’t need to suggest, and it would not be accurate for anyone to suggest, that this is a SUNY problem,” he said. “It is not. This is a societal problem. This is Harvard and Yale and Princeton, Albany and Buffalo and Oswego. It is not SUNY’s problem by origination. I would suggest it should be SUNY’s problem to solve and SUNY’s place to lead.”

The resolution requires all SUNY campuses to adopt an identical definition of consent; a policy to protect victims of a sexual abuse crime from being punished for a student code of conduct violation like underage alcohol consumption or drug use; and the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which would provide victims with his or her rights, a list of resources and steps for reporting the incident, according to the memorandum. The document also specifies SUNY will work to organize a training course for each campus’ police force and administrators to address handling sexual assault incidents as well as “a public campaign to increase awareness among students and parents.”

The resolution comes during the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) investigation into the way one of SUNY’s campuses, Stony Brook University, handles Title IX complaints. As part of the 1972 Education Act, Title IX is a federal clause prohibiting discrimination based on gender at any federally-funded educational institution. The investigation into SBU began on Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

This is not the first time OCR opened a case into SUNY’s Title IX compliance. An investigation in December 2010 into the 29 state-operated SUNY institutions—including Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Purchase and Stony Brook—was closed in September 2013 after OCR and SUNY reached an agreement that detailed 13 improvements the SUNY system was required to implement, according to a Department of Education (DOE) press release.

One of those improvements is a mandate that each SUNY institution designate a Title IX coordinator. At Stony Brook University, Marjolie Leonard holds that position.  According to Leonard, her role is not only to get involved with sexual assault cases, but also to oversee the university’s risk management program.

“[My role is] also to have a pulse on the campus community and see if there are any trends or any things we need to address,” Leonard said, “whether it’s more training, whether it’s looking at our policy and does our policy reflect our practice, and does our practice reflect the need of the campus population.”

It is unknown what Leonard and the Stony Brook administration’s role will be in implementing the different aspects of the newly passed resolution, what the impact of these changes will be on the university or the how long it will take these improvements to be enforced across its campuses.

According to Stony Brook’s Media Relations Officer Lauren Sheprow, the new resolution lines up with similar programs that already exist on campus.

“The statewide policy introduced by Governor Cuomo and the new SUNY [Board of Trustees] resolution are aligned with many initiatives that are already underway at Stony Brook,” she said in an email.  “[This includes] awareness, prevention and education programs (i.e., Red Watch Band, CPO lesson during the 101 courses, Rape Aggression Defense [RAD] Programs, crime prevention awareness sessions about sexual assault, etc.); providing several types of training for students and employees; administering a campus-wide climate survey to all students that is systematically linked to our prevention work; and having a comprehensive definition of consent in our Student Code of Conduct.”

Sheprow added Stony Brook is anticipating further guidance from SUNY on the action items listed in the resolution but will also “monitor mandates and guidance from federal and state agencies.”

This story was originally published in the Oct.14, 2014 issue of The Statesman.

Former SBU Women’s Basketball head coach O’Boyle prepares for new challenges at VCU

O’Boyle led the Seawolves to 24 wins in the 2013-14 season. (PHOTO CREDIT: AMERICA EAST)

O’Boyle led the Seawolves to 24 wins in the 2013-14 season. (PHOTO CREDIT: AMERICA EAST)

Former Stony Brook Women’s Basketball coach Beth O’Boyle may be 395 miles away at Virginia Commonwealth University, but part of her is still in Stony Brook. Continue reading →

Port Jefferson Maritime Explorium engages children in STEM subjects

Maritime Explorium from Hanaa’ Tameez on Vimeo.

Port Jefferson, N.Y. is making math and science fun again.

 Located on East Broadway, the Maritime Explorium, which first opened its doors in 2005, provides parents and children in the area a space to participate in educational, hands-on activities together while also exposing children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in an environment that highlights Long Island’s maritime history and heritage. Continue reading →