“Cats Against Assault” claims lack of accountability in Title IX cases on campus

Campus protest planned for Thursday


Photos courtesy of Cats Against Assault, compiled by Glacie Kehoe-Padilla

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

A new Instagram account titled Cats Against Assault has made waves and garnered over 1,400 followers since their first post on Oct. 20, which introduced the group as “students advocating for CWU to enforce Title IX Laws and hold predators accountable.”

The Cats Against Assault page posts details about certain Title IX cases at CWU that the creators claim were mishandled or did not reach fair resolution, and some posts have mentioned the Ryan Aspiri Dining Services misconduct case previously covered by The Observer (See “Dining services supervisor investigated for ‘inappropriate boundaries’”). 

The page shared a list of demands the creators of the account have emailed to President James Wohlpart and VP of Financial Affairs Joel Klucking, who they claim have not fulfilled these demands for better conditions in the handling of Title IX cases – despite having promised to do so in June 2022, according to a petition shared on their Linktree and their posts.

At present, 211 people have signed the petition and over 30 people have submitted their own Title IX stories to the Cats Against Assault team. The Observer conducted exclusive interviews with two of the creators of the account.

Their demands include: “A free and accessible general counsel/attorney” for Title IX victims, the “rights, options and risks” of victims in Title IX cases provided in writing at initial meetings with coordinators, a strictly-followed timeline that meets federal requirements of being handled within 90 days, more training for Title IX employees, for the burden of no contact orders to fall on perpetrators instead of victims and temporary suspension from work for Title IX perpetrators until their cases are resolved. 

Cats Against Assault is organizing a protest for Thursday, Nov. 3 from 10 a.m – 2 p.m. starting at the Wildcat statue in front of the SURC, where they said community members can join in advocating against Title IX violations and their handling by CWU.

Implications of Title IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was created by former President Nixon and states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to the Department of Justice website, Title IX was created with two main objectives: to restrict the use of federal resources in discriminatory practice within education, and to offer protection to citizens against these practices.

The CWU website states: “Central Washington University is committed to providing a learning, working and living environment that promotes personal integrity, civility, and mutual respect in an environment free of sexual misconduct and discrimination. Sexual discrimination violates an individual’s fundamental rights and personal dignity. CWU considers sexual discrimination in all its forms to be a serious offense.”

CWU Chief of Staff and Interim Vice President of Public Affairs Andrew Morse gave a statement to The Observer: “Central Washington University is committed to the safety and success of our students. We also take complaints of gender-based violence—or any other forms of harassment, violence, and discrimination—seriously, and are following established university policy to investigate allegations in accordance with federal law and regulation.”

“We are always working with our shared governance groups, including student leaders, to improve our policy and practice on a continuous basis. This includes the formation of a task force to evaluate best practices on gender-based violence prevention that will further elevate equity-mindedness in our structures and systems on campus.”

The Observer has reached out to Human Resources, the Title IX department and President Wohlpart for interviews.

Exclusive interviews with creators of Cats Against Assault

To protect the identities of our sources, we will refer to them as Source # 1 and Source # 2. Source # 1 said she is a female student at CWU and Source # 2 said she is a female senior attending CWU. The sources chose to remain anonymous because they said they feared retaliation from CWU administration for speaking out about this topic.

Source # 2 gave general details about their own Title IX case, in which the source claimed a former professor at CWU touched a “private area” on their body on multiple occasions, as well as made inappropriate comments toward them. 

Source # 2 said the professor left the university in the middle of the investigation, which she said meant that a violation of the no contact order placed between the two parties would no longer be punishable by the university. Source # 2 said they were not informed of the professor leaving until months after it happened. 

Source # 1 said in their experience, “Reporting sexual misconduct in the current system is designed to make students fail. No matter how many questions you ask, no matter if you have an attorney, it doesn’t matter how much evidence you have, the chances that your perpetrator will be held accountable is slim to none, even if they’re a professor. That was a hard pill to swallow.” 

“[Creating Cats Against Assault] was not necessarily something that I wanted to do, it was something that needed to be done,” Source # 1 said. “I started taking note of every policy Central was routinely breaking, every aspect of the reporting process that was retraumatizing people, federal laws that they were breaking.”

After taking note of these allegedly breached policies and the shared experience with others around her, Source # 1 said she wrote an email to President Wohplart that was shared on the Cats Against Assault page with their list of demands for reform. She said this was met with promises to make these changes happen, but after waiting five months, she did not see these changes happening.

“Five months later school is starting, and I hear of another Title IX case,” Source # 1 said. “I asked [the victim] how long have you been in it…..the answer was much, much longer than three months; and I asked have your rights been put in writing, because that was one of the things Jim had promised us, and she said no. I asked were you given legal counsel, do you feel like you were supported during this process, and she said no. I emailed President Wohlpart and I copied everything that he had promised and then in bold right next to it said, has this happened yet? What is your plan to make this happen if it hasn’t happened?”

Source # 1 said President Wohlpart’s reply was that close to none of the demands had been met. The university is understood to have posted a Title IX job listing in September searching for an on-campus person to do intake, but according to Source  # 1, none of the other promised demands had been met. 

“It costs zero dollars to put a student’s rights in writing, it costs zero dollars to put a no contact order on the victim instead of the perpetrator….so many of the changes that we’re asking for don’t cost money,” Source # 1 said. “There was really no excuse for not having it done, for having five months and not having it done.”

Source # 2 claimed that this lack of response was the final straw before creating the Instagram account.

“I personally was in my own Title IX case all of last year,” Source # 2 said. “I had to watch some friends go through the Title IX process and have very similar experiences to myself, and I think the tipping point was finally getting to a point where we had confirmation from the President [Wohlpart] that he was going to be working on changes in the Title IX department, and then hearing rumors that more staff was getting involved with student Title IX cases and then having us reach back out to him for a progress update, getting an extremely vague response and no timeline indicating that he is planning on implementing those things that he promised us.” 

The sources both said it was “heartbreaking” to hear stories of so many other students going through this situation, yet they found empowerment through unity.

“As a victim, it’s easy to fall into defeat and feeling like it’s your fault, and it’s really emotional to see how many people have gone through the same thing as you,” Source # 2 said. “On the other hand, it’s also rewarding because you’re kind of bringing that group together and we all can relate to each other, so it’s a powerful thing.”

Source # 1 said they are motivated by many different events and emotions. 

“It was one thing when I was in a Title IX case,” Source # 1 said. “But seeing it happen to other people, that’s what drives me, that’s what makes me go, ‘I want this to be a safe campus’…another thing is anger, it’s looking people in the eye who work here knowing that they lied to me. I’m angry that I pay tuition at a university that is not safe.”

Community outreach and involvement

On the Cats Against Assault page, there are links to a petition people can sign supporting their demands for reform, as well as an anonymous form people can fill out detailing their own Title IX experiences. 

“The Title IX department does a good job of making you feel like your situation is an isolated experience,” Source # 2 said. “When you’re in the process, you are like, ‘okay, maybe I am wrong.’ It’s easy to fall into that. Once we started this Instagram, all these people were like, ‘okay, I did go through this, and they should not have done that and it is against the law,’ and everyone is realizing what they did was wrong, and it’s been really cool to see people be inspired by the Instagram to now go and fight for themselves again.”

Source # 2 commented that what CWU administration presents on the surface has felt like a “slap in the face” compared to the lack of action behind it. 

“I’ve seen the president go and make speeches in front of crowds saying how he’s going to keep the campus a safe place … and then behind the scenes, it’s a completely different story,” Source # 2 said. “We’re reaching out, we’re exasperating all of our resources to make sure we can create a safe place on campus and they’re ignoring us.”

Cats Against Assault has expanded beyond the CWU campus into the greater Ellensburg community, where they handed out over 250 fliers at the Kittitas County Farmers Market.

“We actually ran into a couple people at the farmers market that had been through their own cases, and they didn’t tell us at the time but they reached out to us on the Instagram afterwards and they were like, ‘we just got this flier, thank you so much for starting this page,’” Source # 2 said. 

The Observer will continue following this story in weeks ahead. Keep an eye out for more in-depth future coverage regarding specific Title IX cases on campus. This is the first in a planned series called “Title Wave.”


Andrew Morse’s title was listed in print as Interim VP of Financial Affairs, when his actual title is Interim VP of Public Affairs. This change had been made for the online version.