Students march against alleged Title IX violations within Learning Commons

Protestors claim employer discrimination against nonbinary and neurodivergent people

Students+protest+Title+IX+violations+within+the+Learning+Commons.+Photo+by+Andrew+Ulstad.

Students protest Title IX violations within the Learning Commons. Photo by Andrew Ulstad.

Andrew Ulstad, Staff Reporter

Chants of “stop protecting rapists” rang through the walkways between the SURC and Brooks Library on Tuesday, Nov. 1 as students aired their grievances over alleged Title IX violations by campus staff. A Thursday, Nov. 3 protest organized by the “Cats Against Assault” movement was held in regards to general Title IX cases as well. 

According to the CWU website, Title IX laws “prohibit discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance … including but not limited to: sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence by employees, students, and third parties.”

Naomi Williams, organizer of the protest and a senior in the music education program, claimed that her supervisor discriminated against her at the Learning Commons on campus.

Williams claimed that her supervisor, Jared Odd, spoke inappropriately on gender pronouns and had a policy banning employees from asking what pronouns students prefer. She also claimed that Odd would not use different pronouns than biologically presented under the guise of having an agenda being pushed on him.

Williams claimed she was demoted after filing a series of Title IX complaints against Odd. She said she believes that revealing she was neurodivergent was one of the motivating factors in her demotion. Williams said that Odd claimed it was due to reasons not related to her being neurodivergent. 

“I disclosed that I had autism…two weeks later I was demoted from my lead position,” Williams said. After being demoted, Odd said it was due to budget concerns.

According to Willaims, she later asked about the administration budget and they told her there was no budget change.

During the protest, Williams claimed “I was told by Jared [Odd] that he had lied about why I was demoted. I was demoted because I had filed complaints about him to other administrators and that other tutors liked me more than him because I was advocating against him.”

Williams claimed the investigation involved 19 witnesses and five other complainants. She said that during the investigation, “we started hearing about other Title IX cases that had been kind of swept under the rug by the university … [we came] to the conclusion that the administration was being negligent and we had to take action.” 

Students from multiple departments and walks of life took part in the demonstration. Anthropology student Faith Kruse, who claims to have been a victim of harassment at her job on campus, credited the Instagram account “Cats Against Assault” for bringing the protest to her attention. “Cats Against Assault” made their first post on Oct. 20 and at present have over 1,700 followers. 

“I think it’s really important that more people speak out,” Kruse said. “Because then you’re going to realize that, ‘hey, he did that to me too.’”

Kruse said the public allegations against her former supervisor are part of what made her realize how inappropriate some of their daily interactions were.

Senior political science major Blu Christensen said this protest and others like it are important.

 “Myself and other victims of sexual assault and abuse are having their voices erased in a lot of ways by having these cases being dismissed,” Christensen said.  “In many ways, I know that other victims feel like they don’t have any other voice … if their cases are dismissed.”

Attendees and organizers were calling for accountability in Title IX compliance and consequences for perpetrators.

CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch was present with another officer to ensure safety during the demonstration.

“College is a place to explore and to learn what we stand for,” Berthon-Koch said. “We’re here as the police department to support all sides of it and to make sure that it is a safe event for everybody.”

The Observer has reached out to Jared Odd and Julia James for comment, we received a statement from Interim VP of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff Andrew Morse on their behalf (See “‘Cats Against Assault’ claims lack of accountability in Title IX cases on campus”). The Observer will be following up regarding specific Title IX reports. The Observer has requested the Human Resources report about Jared Odd but the request was denied by Human Resources, who cited the reason as the investigation still being ongoing.