Following allegations of a prevalent culture of sexual violence within USF’s men’s soccer, the University’s Title IX office and its practices have become a frequent topic of conversation regarding how the school handles instances of sexual abuse.
Since spring 2020, the office has implemented changes in policy and programs, including more prevention education for new students and athletic teams, improved student task forces, and increased community involvement.
Title IX itself is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1972, ensuring protections against sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. According to their mission statement, USF’s Title IX office deals with all reports of sexual misconduct experienced by the campus community.
In April, the office hired Katrina “Trina” Garry as the new deputy Title IX coordinator. Jess Varga, the Title IX Coordinator, controls most of the administrative tasks in the office, such as maintaining data and coordinating logistics of formal grievance processes while Garry was hired to be “out in the community, helping train our student leaders,” she said.
According to Varga, Garry’s hiring by the selection committee “was resounding and unanimous.”
Garry previously worked at Yale University for three years, where she headed their consent programs. She also worked in Yale’s Office of Gender and Campus Culture and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative.
“From my experience working at Yale, supporting students and thinking about survivorship, I definitely am excited to be supporting survivors here and creating more opportunities for students to get involved,” Garry said.
Garry is the point person for the office’s new Resources, Education, Prevention and Support (REPS) committee. This program, formerly a general Title IX committee, was created with aid from ASUSF Senate with a goal of eradicating sexual violence on the Hilltop. The committee of 11 students hosts events and workshops with various community groups to increase prevention education. With the REPS committee, “we’re trying to close the gap on student activism and opportunities for engagement,” Garry said.
Garry’s hiring was directly related to the sexual abuse allegations and subsequent investigation surrounding the USF men’s soccer team. She was aware of the issue and excited to bring her experience as a former collegiate level athlete to the table as the point person between the athletics department and the Title IX office.
Garry’s prevention plan does not stop with sports, however. “I am really excited to help create formative changes to our preventative education strategy, across campus, not just with student athletes,” she said. “That started this year with our orientation, the change in its modality.”
This past August, students attending first and second-year orientations worked in small groups, facilitated by student orientation leaders, to discuss reactions to real scenarios of sexual misconduct. This was another change from the Title IX office, as they moved away from the large, lecture-style discussions of previous years.
“I thought going through the scenarios was effective,” said Celeste Baird, a sophomore international studies major. “Having something where students could think about what they should do, instead of just being talked at.”
Garry also led a first-year discussion of “So, You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, something which she said she was thrilled to do, with anti-racism work being important to her.
“You can’t do sexual violence prevention and response work witthout considering intersectionality,” she said. “BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students are dispraportionatley affected by sexual violence.”
As someone who “cherishes student activism,” Garry had the opportunity to work with Varga, Vice Provost Julie Orio, and Dean of Students Shannon Gary to coordinate the University’s response to demands from It’s On USFCA and the University’s handling of sexual abuse on campus.
The responses combined “things that we’re already doing, and where we want to see ourselves go in the future, opening the door to allow for continual feedback and engagement,” Varga said.
Varga said that all the replies were believed to be tangible and reachable. “I didn’t want any of those responses to be false promises,” she said. “We don’t want to just meet benchmarks, we want to go beyond for everyone.”
Community involvement in sexual violence prevention is of great importance to both Varga and Garry. “While Jess and I are working at it from an institutional level, there are small ways that we can all get involved in this kind of work,” Garry said.
“We care about our community,” Varga said. “That’s always centered at the forefront of what we’re doing.”
The Title IX office can be reached titleIX@usfca.edu and the REPS committee can be contacted @USFCA_REPS on Instagram.
Megan Robertson is a sophomore media studies and performing arts & social justice double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @megrrobertson