Behind the Curtain: Moorpark College leadership takes steps to address Title IX woes


(Left to right) Moorpark College students Isa Rojas, Oliva Vazquez and Ella Boring hold up signs protesting Title IX ineffectiveness and the college administration on Dec. 15, 2022. The protest took place just outside the college campus at the intersection of Collins Drive and Campus Drive in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Sarah Graue

By Shahbano Raza and Sarah Graue

Last December, Moorpark College students lined the intersection of Collins and Campus Drive to protest the administration’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations on campus.

Since the onslaught of student opposition, college administrators and the Associated Students of Moorpark College have been vocal in their efforts to respond to students’ safety concerns and address the perceived shortcomings of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in school.

In an interview with the Moorpark Reporter, Vice President of Academic Affairs John Forbes and Public Information Officer Jamie Whittington-Studer shared several updates regarding the college’s institutional partnerships and outreach procedures following December’s protest. Forbes and Whittington-Studer are part of the college’s Title IX Executive Team, tasked with overseeing the implementation and enforcement of Title IX measures.

“Anyone in 2022 that was connected received a personal email from our president and a certified letter in the mail,” Forbes explained. “Behind the scenes, things moved very quickly to provide the best options of engagement and resolution for anyone that has come forward, and so, they received those items. There was then a follow up email this spring.”

Members of the Title IX Executive Team clarified that individuals who came forward officially–or unofficially–through the ASMC public forum on Dec. 12 or Title IX town hall on Dec. 13, were contacted.

“This is very much ongoing in the sense that If there’s anyone who feels like they should have been someone who received that phone call, or that letter, or something like that, we are continuing to open our arms and encouraging students to reach out,” Whittington-Studer stated.

Moorpark College students and faculty marched to the busy intersection of Collins Drive and Campus Drive on Dec. 15 2022 to protest the handling of sexual misconduct on campus. Protesters were greeted by fellow students and community members honking to show their support. Photo credit: Sarah Graue

In this letter to designated students, Moorpark College President Julius Sokenu announced Ventura County Community College District’s partnership with Grand Rivers Solutions, a firm of multidisciplinary experts committed to helping campuses navigate Title IX ordinances and Clery Act compliance.

“Moorpark College takes allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct seriously,” Sokenu wrote. “For this reason, we have retained a neutral, third-party with significant expertise in this area to help us implement the District’s anti-sexual harassment procedures under federal and state law.”

The firm will take over at the district level by assisting with complaint intake and conducting Title-IX procedures, including investigations, hearings and appeals. Complainants (victims of alleged misconduct) will be connected to intake officers through email and interviews can then be scheduled for individual cases.

“The District investigation procedure is intended to provide a full and fair opportunity for the parties to be heard under the applicable policy,” Sokenu stated. “Complainants can choose to file a complaint or can seek supportive measures.”

Additionally, the administration highlighted Winter Dainard, a case manager at the Student Health Center and a student advocate for individuals seeking assistance with navigating the revised Title IX process.

“Given the sensitivity of this situation, we believe that she will be the best advocate for students moving forward,” Whittington-Studer said. “So, anyone who wants to report, she is who we would like them to go to.”

The administration has also been working alongside the ASMC Board of Directors to collaborate on Title IX communication and education for students. In an ASMC board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27, students gathered to converse on a packed agenda of Title IX-related measures.

The meeting started with the first formal reading of a student sponsored Title IX Resolution, co-authored by Moorpark College student Ella Boring and ASMC Directors Nishad Kalluri, Daniella Luczywek and Synthia Mahmud.

Resolutions are formal documents that express the student government’s stance on an issue, outlines the need for change or reform and demonstrates a commitment to enacting or advocating for policy changes at the administrative level.

According to the ASMC webpage, “Writing resolutions is one of the most important things the Associated Students Board of Directors can do to express the will of the Moorpark College student body.”

Boring, a prominent voice for Title IX reform, spoke to the board about her decision to co-author the resolution.

ASMC board members and student attendees listen to Ella Boring’s public statement made at the ASMC Title IX meeting on Dec. 12, 2022. Photo credit: Shahbano Raza

“I haven’t filed a Title IX, but I have seen how my friends went through the Title IX process, and how it [Title IX policy] led to not really having any change in their experience,” Boring said. “I thought of ways that I’d like to see the school actually change in their policy to improve their Title IX standards.”

After a readthrough, the floor opened for students to discuss the wording, content and structure of the document, with edits being requested before future approval. The resolution was passed the following week, on March 6, with unanimous consent. A formal signing of the document is scheduled to take place at the next ASMC forum on March 13.

During the previous meeting on Feb. 27, the ASMC Board also unanimously approved the creation of a Take Back the Night chapter at Moorpark College.

The Take Back the Night Foundation is a globally recognized charitable organization with a mission of ending sexual violence and intimate partner violence. At the collegiate level, Take Back The Night chapters are established to plan events and fundraisers to increase dialogue on campus surrounding sexual assault.

Board members also motioned to tie a previously approved sexual assault awareness event with the new Take Back the Night chapter. The future event has a budget of $5000 and is proposed for April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Title IX-related section of the meeting concluded with a virtual visit from Whittington-Studer who helped brainstorm ideas for the upcoming sexual assault awareness event. Whittington-Studer expressed support for the newly-established chapter on behalf of the Title IX Executive Team.

“I love Take Back the Night as an initiative, and I am so happy that you are bringing that to our campus and the Executive Team feels the same way,” Whittington-Studer said. “At the heart of our conversation, we were hoping that this was something ASMC would want to take on because more than anything we wanted this to be student-initiated and student-led.”

Recent discourse between students and administrative leaders suggest that the college has improved its responsiveness with regards to sexual misconduct allegations on campus.

While considerable changes were made to the intake process of these allegations, educating students on the Title IX process has been at the forefront of the college’s outreach program. The scope of the impact remains to be seen, but a shift in administrative rhetoric and procedure is certainly palpable following the student outcry that garnered mass attention this past December.

*Behind the Curtain is a series following the sexual misconduct accusations that broke at Moorpark College in early December of 2022. The previous story can be found here.