Missouri State University hired Jill Patterson as its first full-time Title IX coordinator to serve as the university’s subject-matter expert on requirements of and compliance with Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act and related federal and state laws this past July. Jill is responsible for investigating and ensuring timely resolution of all reports of sex discrimination, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking involving members of the university community.
When people hear Title IX they tend to think athletics. What is Title IX and why is it important to the campus community?
I agree. When I tell people about my new role as Title IX Coordinator at MSU, many of them have stated that they believe I will be working to ensure gender equity in sports. Such work was the beginning of Title IX in 1972. We have come so far with the goal of providing opportunities for women and girls in sports. Now, the focus of Title IX is on the high rates of stalking, dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses.
We hear a lot about sexual assault on college campuses. What is Missouri State doing to educate the campus community on sexual assault?
There are many initiatives at MSU to educate students, staff and faculty about the prevalence of sexual assault among college aged students. Such efforts include the online training, Haven, for new students, training for faculty and staff about their responsibility to report instances of sexual assault, stalking or dating violence if they are a designated Campus Security Authority, presentations given in the freshman General Education Program (GEP) classes about Title IX and the drama troupe Giving Voice that performs various vignettes related to Title IX with an interactive component to encourage audience participation.
What do you see as the role of the family in relation to protecting and educating their student in college?
I don’t think we can underestimate the power of a strong family connection as a foundation for students but I think it is our responsibility as the University community to create a safe educational environment for students.
Why is it important for someone to report a case of sexual assault/sexual violence?
The answer to this question depends on who the “someone” is. There are people on campus who are obligated to report an instance of sexual violence if they learn of one, such as certain faculty, residence hall staff and coaches. If the “someone” is a victim of sexual violence, the reasons to report include: to access help and support, to learn what options are available through the Title IX Office and the Dean of Students Office and because there is no shame in having been a victim. I believe that keeping sexual violence a secret only protects offenders.
What are the steps to reporting an incident at Missouri State?
There are several ways that someone can report an incident of sexual violence at MSU. They could: tell a professor, a member of the residence hall staff, a coach or advisor, someone from Safety and Transportation, make a police report, make an anonymous report on our website, contact the Title IX Office or Dean of Students Office.
What career path did you take to the role of Coordinator of Title IX at Missouri State?
At the beginning of my career, I was an Assistant Public Defender briefly and then was an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Greene County for 15 years specializing in sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse cases. I have worked in private practice as an attorney and also worked as an instructor in the Criminology Department at MSU.
What are your hobbies outside of your job?
I enjoy watching my children play sports and do my fair share of carpool driving. I love the beach, yoga, football, baseball and my dogs.
What is the last book you read for fun and would you recommend it to others? Why or why not?
The last two books I read were Into Thin Air by John Krakauer and The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.
What is your best advice to parents of today’s college student?
My step-son started college this year so I can answer from my own experience. I think there are many ways to be a loving parent of a college student but I think the most important things are to be supportive and stay in touch.