Elizabeth Hansen is a lawyer and human resources professional with over a decade of experience creating and leading the Title IX and Equity offices for public and private colleges and universities. She works with organizations throughout the country, and in today’s episode, she talks about her work with schools and colleges on equity and diversity inclusion.
You can reach out to Elizabeth on Linkedin or through her website ecanninglaw.com.
Key points include:
Ep. 40. Elizabeth Hansen
Elizabeth Hansen, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 90 G report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with Elizabeth Canning, who is formerly known to many of you as Buffy Hansen. Elizabeth, welcome to the show. I Well, thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. I am excited too. So tell us about your journey since graduating from Harvard. Oh, I will try to do the short version.
Elizabeth Hansen 00:34
I was an art history major at Harvard. And and so in college, I didn’t have a good sense of what I wanted to do. So leaving college I sort of bumped around for a little bit trying to explore different professions to think what I wanted to do. And then I took the LSAT just like well,
Will Bachman 01:00
wait a minute, wait a minute, we don’t we don’t like guess get by with that. Okay, so we will talk about the LSAT but be bumping around different professions that is yeah, that piques my interest. So, give us the quick one minute version of what were the different professions you both gosh,
Elizabeth Hansen 01:17
okay, in four years, I think there’s a gap between four years college and law school. Um, I was I was a teacher. I taught ninth grade English at a boarding school and coached a few sports and with a dorm person to some sophomore girls, I tried management consulting for a smidge.
Will Bachman 01:45
This is what firm are you with management consulting?
Elizabeth Hansen 01:50
I was with Gemini consulting. All right. Okay. So yes. So years, like literally for like I not even a year. So I was like, I’ll try this and did that for for the It’s like no, that’s that’s not quite, quite right. For me. All right.
Will Bachman 02:05
I will be out that is not a requirement to be on the show. But it does seem to be a theme. Okay. I
Elizabeth Hansen 02:10
think well, you know, quite honestly, I think in it, I think that a lot of what was put there for people, right? When you talk to people about what they’re doing. There were certain paths that that were there. And you know, some of the things I would tell my younger self is hey, look around a little bit there’s other paths out there but and you know, they could have been there but for whatever reason it’s kind of like you see what you see and maybe don’t know to look to look at look to the right of it look to the left it’s the other things but I do know a lot of people serve a touch a lot of people who sort of feel like oh, this is kind of a bill of goods goods I was sold or this is what I understood to be my options. But yeah, electrical did management consulting.
Will Bachman 03:03
Alright, man. Okay. Consulting
Elizabeth Hansen 03:06
teaching. Then I went out, like coached, I came back and I coached cuz I played lacrosse as an undergrad. And so I came back and coached for a season with Carol Kleinfelder my lacrosse coach. And then I before law school, I went out west for a little smidge. And lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming for about nine or 10 months. Working in an art gallery hiking and mountain biking every day in the gorgeous Tetons and loved I mean, just gorgeous out there. And then finally made it made my way back to figuring out okay, what what am I going to do? So that’s, that’s the Smidge so that’s actually that was more than a minute. But that was sort of the rambling. The first stage, I would say I could break my life in sort of the different stages of kind of, you know, looking at a path and continually continually re examining the path and taking a new one. But that was sort of the the initial stage and and then I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took the LSAT like I don’t know, can I do this? And I based on when I on the score. I’m like okay, I guess my brain functions this way or I’ll look at law school. And so I end up going to law school. Really as you know, the view of like, okay, people say things about this, they say you can do anything with a law degree. I’ll try it. And I started out you know, in law school was fine. I came out with my loans and said, Okay, what job can I take that will help pay down these loans and, and started out initially as a commercial real estate attorney, and did that for a five or six years at a law firm and And it, it was fine. It definitely was not really something I felt particularly inspired by. But while I was working at a law firm, I did pro bono work, working with families who had worked on Social Security benefits and payments. And so they were either being told they had overpaid, and the government was asking for money back, or they weren’t getting the right amount. And so I represent them before administrative law judges, trying to set the right yes, to sort of argue their case, why they shouldn’t, why they should get more money or didn’t have to pay it back. And I really found that rewarding, I realized that sort of writing contracts and negotiating contracts for, you know, companies, leases for companies was not where I was destined to be working in a big law firm, not my personality, like, that’s just not a fit for me. And so after searching for a while on the on the search page on my loans I switched to was really lucky. I got a job as a juvenile public defender in Rhode Island where I live. And that was the career that changed my life, that was the absolutely game changing, made me a better person, I learned so much, you know, representing children who had no voice, you know, who really were kind of pushed around a lot. We’re often overlooked by all the services and all the people that they should have been carefully looked at, supported by and giving them a voice in court was amazing. And the kids I worked with, were just incredible. I was felt really honored to have that job. It made me learn that, you know, the kids didn’t care, where anything, anything about me, whether it’s college, or our, you know, what my liking about my background, they just want to know, whether they’ll call me loose. Whether this, you know, can you help me? And can you actually, you know, how can you help me? How can you, you know, take care of me or fix this for me and represent me and I found that, that was giving that voice and really representing to the best I could, was, it was important. And I learned to be a really, you know, this the they, they didn’t need you to be anything other than this person who just was totally focused on their needs. And it was great. It was really hard work, because a lot of the children I worked with, you know, really struggled, you know, to to get the services and public defender you have to be, you know, below the poverty line, you have to be you can’t afford services. So a lot of the students, the kids I worked with, struggle with housing, they struggled with it food, fuel, afford things, mental health care, all sort of services that a child should have. And it’s in sometimes the juvenile system can help get them those things. But it’s really hard to see a student a child have to come into that system to get those things we should realize they should have those to begin with, and how do we support and, and be a stronger community for? You know, that was a neat point
Will Bachman 08:40
of clarification. Yeah. You see, you’re a public defender. So was this Yeah, like defending kids who are accused of a crime or more like kids who were, you know, on their own in the system, and you were helping advocate to get them proper foster care or something like that? Right. Question.
Elizabeth Hansen 08:55
Kids who are accused of a crime. So I’ve represented children, from anything from shoplifting, to assault to robbery, rape, molestation, murder. So it’s the whole range of dealing drugs. So there’s a whole range of, you know, crime. Okay. Yeah.
Will Bachman 09:16
Okay, so these kids, you know, below the poverty line, have a great parent support system, and they’re accused of a crime, so you’re defending them? And tell us keep going.
Elizabeth Hansen 09:30
Yeah. So and so did that for about six years. And then I would definitely say, I, folks who do this work, I have colleagues who still continue to do this work. I definitely found at some point that I felt burned out and I had my daughter at that point. And I was looking for a change because it was definitely sort of taking its toll. And around that time. A lot of big shift happened. In in the educational space with respect to Title Nine. And in 2011, the Obama administration issued sort of this statements called a Dear Colleague letter, but it’s basically a document to school schools, that tells them what the government thinks is important and what they expect schools to do. This Dear Colleague letter was around sexual violence, and the applicability of Title Nine to schools and what schools need to be doing. And there’s a huge announcement, Joe Biden made the announcement and it became a real sort of big thing in the educational space. And I, at that time of school, Johnson, Wales University in Providence, but also in Denver, Miami, Charlotte, was looking for because of this announcement said, Oh, we have to make sure we’re doing this right. And they hired, they’re looking for title nine coordinator. So because I had so much experience dealing with these issues around sexual violence and handling these cases, like, I got the job. And that is kind of this sort of next stage within, you know, I went from corporate law to juvenile in, you know, working in actually in the courts and then working in college campus to help the schools comply with Title Nine, as in the role of something called the title nine coordinator, every school receiving federal funds has to have someone called the title nine coordinator. And I also was hired to be their non discrimination coordinator. So my role was to sort of create this new office that manage the school’s compliance with laws prohibiting discrimination based on identity. So I oversaw and managed complaints of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, manage the school’s compliance with the ADA and Section 504, which relate to disability, an age discrimination, etcetera. And so that was pretty neat, because I get to work on four campuses. And two, I did training, I did investigations policy, you know, really worked a lot with trying to think about how do you how do you get this really unpopular topic? How do you make sure that people are informed of their rights, get more understand what they can and can’t do, how to behave. And, and truly try to take the law and make it actionable, you know, compliance is taking that law, and then bringing life to it, and helping people do the right thing. So that was a really neat experience in and I worked there for about five years, eventually become the Director of Institutional Equity and compliance. You know, again, on on the on the campuses. And that, since then, that sort of you know, is, that’s what I’ve been focused on is really working on what I call equity work. And I’ve worked at two other colleges since then, doing the same work. And each time try and go to different schools where I can learn about that environment, and to continue to develop my knowledge and how to help schools comply. I’ve always, I would say, probably much since starting this work, realize that I have always wanted to kind of be on my own, I realized I like much more sort of efficient and I really liked be able to sort of make my own game plan, and really wanting to go out and eventually become a consultant in this because around those that time period, there weren’t there were few people doing this work. In fact, I want to shout out to our classmate, Elizabeth thing Javi, who was doing this work around that time, and is just an amazing person, and incredibly talented professional in this area, too. And she was one of few people doing this work, you know, as a, as a consulting company and company at that time. And so she’s been my idol. And so then I started this in 2019, went out on my own and started my company, where I work with both K 12 and higher ed institutions on their compliance obligations around these laws. And so I do a lot of investigations. I conduct a lot of investigations of allegations of discrimination, harassment, a lot of the cases I have are title nine cases. So that is that those are allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual assault and dating violence. So I do a lot of investigations around those types of allegations. I work as an interim coordinator, so if a school is you know, apps if they have someone in there trying to rehire somebody I’ll fill in for temporary you know a bit I am and advice schools on how to staff these offices, I do a lot on the sort of Human Resources piece to say, this is how the office should be staffed. This is how you should support your people in the office, I train. I do some expert consulting work. And I trying to think what else I do and assessments of the offices, as well. And it’s been great. So I started it, this is my fourth, I’m starting my fourth year. In my company, I’m working for myself.
Will Bachman 15:33
Well, congratulations on starting your own thing. What you have kind of been in this higher ed space now for over a decade, and you’ve seen kind of the evolution there, particularly around these topics of discrimination and equity. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about Jonathan hates book, The coddling of the American mind, which makes an argument that sometime around 2015 undergraduates had this very kind of started changing in terms of being, you know, wanting to be kind of coddled and having safe spaces and so forth. And you’re probably much more familiar with the argument than I am. What’s your take on his book? It any any truth there? Or do you see some, you know, disagree with the thesis?
Elizabeth Hansen 16:27
So I haven’t read it, but I am happy to discuss it. Because I think it’s something that comes up quite a bit. Right, different, you know, different over time, you know, have heard that statement. I have a lot of thoughts about this. So I think that what I see in this work is it is extremism, but we have we’re struggling in educational institutions to balance. You know, I think the needs of students their immediate needs and their immediate experiences, which are all valid, right? What you experience is valid with understanding the need for different points of view, and free speech. And some schools are doing a great job with it, they’re able to care for their students, and communicate the safety of the students. As a given right, the student should always be have that feeling where they’re in school, and with a vibrant sense of free speech and debate and discussion. I think that I do see issues on campus where there’s, there’s a reaction to different things people say. And a lot of times you look at, I think there’s some complications, or maybe misunderstandings or misperceptions around when it’s something actionable, and when it’s something an idea for discussion. And the school struggle, I think, when they’re not able to, you know, articulate that they think can happen the same time. And schools struggle when they don’t respond to things that they should be responding to. It’s not an either or there. It’s not as if there’s it’s free speech, and so deal with it. And it’s not well, we can’t say anything more schools need to balance the two. So it’s not a really simple answer. Because you do have people saying things or doing things which needs to be responded to, they need to be addressed. They’re not so they’re violating policy, and they’re not conducive to they’re not productive. And yet, they’re also things that people need to be able to do to learn to hear different points of view, to be challenged intellectually and academically. And I have concerns when there’s a confusion about what that means. And so schools are struggling with this. They’re really struggling with trying to find that right balance.
Will Bachman 19:30
Yeah. Like trigger warnings. I mean, when you and I were in school, we didn’t have trigger warnings. If the professor said some, like, idea or fact that we didn’t like, you know, tough luck you know, you disagree with it. Okay. Say why you disagree or if it’s a fact that, you know, you didn’t like then well, you face the facts, but and, but it seems that that, you know, it’s a very different world now. Right? Where Yeah, it is what’s what’s what’s your what’s your take on that? And I mean, I imagine that you’re kind of very immersed in this world and figuring out like, what are the winter trigger warnings required? When is it inappropriate to say something even if it might be true example?
Elizabeth Hansen 20:21
Yeah. So what does trigger trigger warnings is a trigger issue, no trigger warnings happy talking about because the front, let me give a little background, I think one of the issues we’re finding is that we are sort of an Insta society right now. And a sides society. And you are either if you are belonging to this, like you’re either on this side or this side. And you people hear something and immediately need to judge it within without much information. And not think critically or thoughtfully about, right, we’re very reactionary. We’d like to put things in boxes, which is everything we’re doing at the same time, we’re trying to make sure people aren’t just putting boxes, right? Because that’s bias, and that’s judgment, etc. But the law these issues, people are just going to their corners are reacting the way they think they should be wrapping so without incurring another plenty people who are doing with great inquiry, etc. But I think what I’m I can’t when I’m reading things about these issues, or talking to students, or I’m hearing what some people not all are saying is it’s an all or nothing, it is it is it we’re going to look at free spaces, we’re going to look at addressing concerns of students, or we’re going to look at trigger warnings. What are we do? What is the purpose? Is there meaning behind this? Is it going to affect what’s being taught in the classroom? Or, you know, I have great respect for faculty, I think, you know, we’ve entrusted them to think about, you know, how they want to impart knowledge and how they want to do that. And that’s part of in my mind, so the academic experience. I think that the trigger warning debate, a lot of frankly, a lot of debates around Title Nine, right, because I deal a lot with gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual assault, there are a lot of camps and all of these issues. And on trigger warnings, the same thing. I think that we have to come up with the purposes of a trigger warning, and what the purposes of whatever is being taught in that class. And is this is this necessary to the class? Is this? Is this necessary based on the material? Is it going to affect what students are learning? I think a trigger warning. And I actually, I honestly think some of the names we give these things are triggering, right? I don’t know if they adequately describe the purpose of of, of, of what it’s supposed to do. Right? Not like, we can give something a title trigger warning. But maybe a lot of people have a different meaning or understanding of what that means and why you do it. And that’s the problem is I don’t think we have a shared understanding of what the purpose is of that. So I think that I do have concerns where it interferes with helping students grow and learn and develop as independent thinkers and dealing with the real world around them. I think that there’s a time and place for different lessons and ways to figure out where those appropriate times and places are. At the same time, I think some common sense prevails, that you know, if you are going to include a reading material or a movie, or something in your class, that is traumatic, right, that’s just typical, a violent sexual assault. No, before you show it, because people do what we’ve learned, what we’re learning is people come with different experiences. And if that’s gonna get in the way of their learning, then it might make sense to sort of let people know what’s going to happen. So I think that’s why it’s sort of not it’s not black or white. It’s really very much like, what is the purpose of this? How does it support effective learning in the classroom? And I don’t, I am concerned with any view that sort of says, this is the way it has to be all the time with that sort of connecting it to the purpose of the class, the purpose of learning, and something reasonable and rational. So I,
Will Bachman 24:53
let’s switch gears I want to ask you about Yeah, yeah. Talk to me about an hour as much detail as you can provide by keeping it, you know, still sanitized, obviously. Talk to us about some of the specific types of issues that you face, you know, related to Title Nine gender issues, the types of things you deal with day to day, what are what are some moments particularly interesting, or any ones that where there’s not an obvious kind of, yes, like right or wrong answer, where it’s the kind of complex issues that are coming up today that you face that you hope that you hope educational institutions go through.
Elizabeth Hansen 25:36
So, um, you know, I think that some of the the issues, I see them the most regular the cases I get the most are, I guess I put them in different categories. So for sexual harassment, you know, the biggest issue people are saying is, you know, sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sacred sexual nature, right, that meets meets a certain standard, severe pervasive, it basically affects your ability to fully engage in what you’re supposed to be doing. But it’s learning you’re working. And one of the biggest things I see around, for example, sexual harassment, is it often occurs when, you know, there is a sort of disregard for someone else’s experience, you know, a lot of times we don’t recognize the impact we have on somebody else, or the impact of our words, or you because it’s about wellness is this welcome to this other person. And I see a lot issues come up where people aren’t really thinking about that other person’s experience. And don’t consider basically how their words land with somebody else, and whether it’s welcome, or whether it’s appropriate. And so, when I’m working with college kids, or sorry, college students, you know, when people come to college, they come from all different types of discussions, or lack thereof, around how to speak with someone, how to engage in a respectful manner, when you’re interested in someone or, or resettlement around people who are different from you. And that lack of sort of observance or thoughtfulness about someone else, it really leads to a lot of issues and comes up. And I can then branch off into talking about consent on college campuses, where we have a similar issue where students are coming fully uneducated, around sexual activity. And, and there have been no conversations and no discussions about respect or consent or healthy sexuality. And then they come to college campuses, with no knowledge, and then are now trying to engage with others. And again, if they send us similar issues of not understanding and not paying attention and not understand what content looks like, and how to communicate, how do we communicate in a manner that are respectful and attentive?
Will Bachman 28:10
Now? Is it your experience, that students are less aware of those sorts of consent issues than when we were kids? Because, I mean, I have kids now, and that’s kind of something they talk about at school, high school consent and so forth, it seems that they, like highly index on those kinds of topics now, compared to when we were 18. Right. So yeah. Do Would you say it’s kids are more aware now or less aware now? Or is there a greater variance? Perhaps?
Elizabeth Hansen 28:45
You know, I, I think that I don’t recall these discussions in college, right? I mean, these issues came up in college, right? I mean, this is not like oh, suddenly now these things are just happening and never happened before. They’ve been happening all along. I think that education goes a long way. Now we talk about it more often. You know, if you’re because of Title Nine now to him in applying to is always applied, but there’s been a bigger push. K 12. Schools are now hearing Title Nine, right, that wasn’t taking place while we were in college. No, I don’t think people heard about it sort of like, oh, it’s sports and Title Nine, but no one was connecting it to sexual harassment and sexual assault, even though they weren’t connected. It just wasn’t in the main what’s really being talked about. It is now more so. Now schools high schools are having everyone knows who the title nine coordinator is, colleges as well. There’s more intentional programming in colleges and high schools around these issues. The issue however, you know, where I’m seeing a great disconnect is while some people may know the term consent, they may know the term title line coordinator It’s a word and, and it’s they hear it when they go to school, they hear it because somebody know when to tightline coordinator, but students, I don’t know whether students are coming to schools any better educated around what consent actually is. I’m not seeing that in the work I have been in the cases are these are, every school has these cases, it is a very big industry of people like me investigating these cases, which tells me that which has actually been consistent with the word consent. I can say consent, and everyone in the room has a different understanding what that means it looks like people are coming to school, not actually actually parents, I’ve had parents say to me, oh, you know, thank goodness, I have to send my child off to college, I didn’t have to have I haven’t had had the talk once or something, we have a real issue with talking about this topic talking about consent, talking about sexual activity in a way that’s actually meaningful, and imparts serve our child with the tools to function in a healthy way with somebody once they get to college, or, you know, whenever they’re engaging in sexual activity, like it was put their head in the sand, and they want someone else to talk about it. But it’s actually a more meaningful discussion, to make it actionable, and to ensure your child is safe and engaging in safe behaviors.
Will Bachman 31:31
Okay. So what are some specific things that would come up that you would have to investigate? Like, yeah, this sexual activity occurs, and one party says that there was not consent, and the other person says there was and probably alcohol, or something? And
Elizabeth Hansen 31:48
yep, so I have a few main categories. And I would say, in almost every single case, alcohol is present, to some degree, whether they’re at a party or one person’s been drinking, and is incapacitated, or drunk, or both, etc. Alcohol is always always an issue, because most of these interactions, were the basis for these complaints come from a social situation. So they’ve been hanging out together at someone’s party or bar, or it’s always a social event that brings them you know, people together. And the two main things I see the the cases that come up are, there’s a whole range of allegations. So when I say this, I am not this is not to the exclusion of other complaints I’ve received, and other ways that other forms of sexual assault, you know, but but the one issue is always an issue of incapacitation. And then the other may, and I’ll go into detail on that. The other one is an issue of whether there’s been adequate communication of someone’s agreement or lack thereof. So the incapacitation issue, definitely a lot, we get a lot of cases where someone says, this happened, I drank so much AND, and OR consumed drugs, or cross whether it’s alcohol and marijuana, and I don’t remember what happened. But I came in and out and a pretty sure you know, sexual activity occurred, but I don’t fully remember it, or I just remember lying there and seeing it happen. So that’s one common form. And so a lot of education I do. That’s one common complaint. And a lot of the education that service surrounds that is, you know, helping people understand incapacitation and the state of mind of the person they’re with and ensuring that you know, you know, really in college campuses and schools now you it’s not a force, you know, sexual assault, just to be clear for anyone listening, you know, sexual assault, the definition of sexual assault on campuses, I would say almost maybe there’s a school out there, I don’t know, is not just for space, right? It is not that the person didn’t say no, it is does not require someone forced somebody or you know, with violence, that can be sexual assault, but the majority of sexual assaults that come up are ones where someone says I was incapacitated, and there’s a suggestion that the other person either was aware of it and took advantage of it or just was oblivious to it and did not pay attention to this person and realize they couldn’t give consent because if you’re incapacitated, you don’t have them the mind right, you’re no you’re no head, you can’t you don’t have the mental capacity to agree on anything and therefore you can’t consent. So that’s that’s one. And then the other is a lot comes up is whether or not people have been reading the other person finds I’ve had many cases where someone says I froze, and I just I froze up, and I didn’t move, and I lay there. And so and so I didn’t get what they’re saying is I didn’t give an outward indication, which is what most schools policy say that I was agreeing to this, I that there was consent. And therefore the other, you know, I didn’t give consent, and therefore, it’s a violation of you know, that with sexual assault. And so those two are, again, you do have others you do, you know, but those are the two ones that come up a lot. And so I really work with, you know, that’s why I sort of, say, when people come to school is understanding that intersection of alcohol and sexual assault, people are still responsible, even, you know, even if the person was drunk, you know, that intersection is pretty, pretty dangerous, and, and pretty, pretty common. And then understanding how to pay attention to somebody, observe and ask for or make sure you’re reading the signs to know if consent is present. And that is why I sort of really hammer upon like, what are we doing educate students? Because that’s the type of education they need to have to understand how do you ensure that that person is a sober enough and be? You have all the right, you’re reading them? Right? You’re asking for oversell, you’re paying attention. I mean, a lot of cases come up where someone, the allegations person didn’t pay attention, and that you understand that this person, you have to agree to every act, you need to feel comfortable with that you’re on the same page, and how do you ensure that’s happening? So those are the those are the main ones I see. And I it is, it is something that needs to so that’s why I say these are skills that needs to be taught before they get to college around how to doesn’t even have to be at you can talk to your kids nine about sex, how do you talk about anything else? But how do you pay attention? How do you ensure your friend does want to go to that movie, you know, there’s other ways you can get there, if you’re not comfortable talking about tax, even though we really should be because, you know, we talk to kids about everything else, we drive them to games, we invest in music lessons, we spend hours of our time and money on things when your child’s not gonna be professional football player, they’re not going to be you know, first string, whatever, and some orchestra, but they will be engaging in a relationship with somebody. And And if in what I’m seeing these cases is the damage that happens to everybody. When they come forward. This this process and this experience, the allegation and new being alleged being accused is affecting students and it’s affecting people’s children. And that’s why I’m like, I really feel strongly that parents need to take, you know, need to do more to make sure their kids have the tools for healthy relationships, when they you know, not just when they go to college, because guess what, it’s happening in high school as well. So the earlier these conversations can start the better.
Will Bachman 37:56
Talk to me about some of the gender related type cases that you get involved in.
Elizabeth Hansen 38:04
Yes, so this, this is a very hot topic in the country, and certainly on campuses right now. So, you know, a lot of schools are, you know, looking at making sure that their community, you know, when we look at Title Nine, so let me go back Title Nine in this is where the law is very short, 37 words and basically says, schools have to make sure that no one in you know, can be discriminated against, or denied let me say it’s denied a benefit opportunity to school basically, based on sex. So, from that is the flow for Title Nine is sex discrimination basically, is where something happens that keeps you from fully enjoying the benefits of your school. That’s why sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, because it’s the first of its kind of tradesmen definitely based on sex, but it’s engaging in that behavior, the extent where they’re, they are being denied opportunity, because they stop going to that class or that dining hall. So they’re being denied. And then sexual assault is a form of that, because it’s so profound, right, that it’s based on facts, it’s sexual, but also it’s profoundly affecting someone’s ability to you know, it causes depression, you know, suicidality. You know, like there’s there’s all kinds of reactions to it. And so it’s treating someone differently based on sex is also you know, there’s this is cases as well, you know, in different states have done this differently until Bostock from June to 2022. I can’t forget the point. I think 2020 And that’s, you know, treating someone differently based on their sexual orientation, or their expression of their gender or their gender identity is basically you know, discriminate against when based on sex because it is saying, Hey, you’re not conforming to a stereotype we have around and how someone who’s been assigned this male or female at birth, biologically, should behave, right, we’re gonna apply the stereotype and therefore we’re going to treat you differently. And we’re going to, you know, so that’s why you get to sex to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is a form of sex discrimination. Now, this is sort of been an issue for different states over many years. Some states said, Yep, that that’s how we look at it. And other states have said no. Bostock, in Supreme Court case, said yes, you know, sexist, you know, discriminate someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity is a form of sex discrimination. As is not spelled out in the law. The laws No, you know, note, the federal, you know, Title Nine does not say it doesn’t say facts, orientation, and gender identity, which is why these court cases, you know, have happened as well as Title Seven doesn’t say that it says sex. So, it’s different now. So under the Biden administration, they’re very clear that sex discrimination includes discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, there are some state agencies now I believe, who are trying to file suit to try and say no, that that’s not that’s not legal, is that correct? I don’t know where this is all going to come down. You know, I think Bostock, when you look at that, when you look at the recent case, on overturning Roe, there’s some suggestion that people are going to raise issues around, there’s a concern, what’s going to happen, and whether these other protections are going to go away. But so college campuses, there’s definitely been a shift, even in the in the, you know, over a decade since I’ve been here around schools ability to make sure that they are creating environments that are welcomed to people based on gender identity, based on sexual orientation, there’s been a profound increase in ways schools have been ensuring that they, they they’re inclusive, that they people are thinking about the right, making sure that people are using the correct pronouns for individuals, and to make sure that people have living spaces that where they feel comfortable, etc. And that has been within the past decade, where schools have really shifted to make sure they have bathrooms that are again, you know, that people can people should go to the bathroom and comfort. Right? And so how are we making sure that on a campus people can, you know, have a bathroom where they can feel comfortable in they can feel safe? And who can and that’s the big hot issue, you know, which is, it’s an ongoing, but schools have, you know, I think the country is slowly learning and sort of, sort of coming up to speed with this and understand this is who someone is, you know, kids in high school are much more understanding about this than I think and they get it. I think that I’m seeing a shift, sometimes generationally about how people understand who someone is, there’s a lot of visceral reaction people have definitely the work I’ve been doing, I see is tremendous visceral reaction, for some reason people have around gender, gender is just like, who you know, is like the type of chick, it’s a it’s a hot button for people. It’s a visceral reaction people have
Will Bachman 43:38
give us the canonical cases of sexual harassment, what are some of the sort of canonical categories of cases that you’re seeing on gender issues?
Elizabeth Hansen 43:53
So some of the cases you see are whether you know, that can come up are whether someone’s using the pronoun that an individual says they would like to be used, this is, you know, the pronoun could apply to them. And so, different schools and different folks are handling that differently. But there was a, there was a case that came out this summer, I think, where a faculty member was not using the pronoun that a student applied to the student and the faculty sued, and one to say that he could use the he did not he could use a pronoun that that he wanted to use,
Will Bachman 44:37
right that was the professor sued.
Elizabeth Hansen 44:39
The professor so this is an interesting case. So the professor, the student came forward saying, hey, you know, I’m in class and Professor refuses to use the pronoun and and it’s using the pronouns that apply to the students biological explanation, and not to their identity and the out Um, school looked at it, and my understanding is the school looked into it, they didn’t fire the faculty member if I had this correctly, but they did investigate it. And I’m not sure whether they just said how they responded. So the person didn’t lose their job. But they sued the school saying, Hey, you, you shouldn’t This shouldn’t have I shouldn’t have been getting investigating this, I shouldn’t be getting in trouble for this. Because I have the you know, that, you know, I, I can call the student by the, the, the gender, the gender that aligns with their biological assignation. And this, the faculty member, actually, I think, won the case over $400,000. With that claim, and so, that’s, that’s sort of like this summer. So that’s definitely a case that schools look at and say, ha, you know, we have, we have students, and we have employees, who this is, this isn’t the pronouns, this is the gender, this is their gender, this is gender identity. And yet you have these cases out there that say, Hey, you can’t, you can’t force somebody, you can’t force somebody to use a pronoun, that that person identifies with it, they are. And so that’s a, that’s a, that’s a real conundrum, that’s a really hard issue. Because I, you know, I, this is who somebody is, this is how they this, if we, we tell faculty, we tell people, Hey, this is this person’s name, you have to call them this right there, or if they change their name, this is the name that we kind of expect people to treat our students with, you know, so that so that dignity and respect and to use the names that and the, in the pronouns that that person wants. And so it is, it’s a quandary when you have a faculty member who’s not choosing not to do that. And you when you think about the intersection of I guess, perceptions and belief, it’s a struggle when what sometimes gets lost, is I kind of think about every student, is this very student centric, are we you know, what lessons are? What are we? How are we treating people who are members of our community in a way that is respectful? So it’s, I don’t know what, where we’re going to go with case law on this. And I’m sure there are other lots other cases out there that I don’t know about. But I just know that case in particular is one that colleges are really looking at, and really trying to think about how do we make people feel valued and safe and respected and included? When and how do you manage someone who’s maybe saying I have, you know, a religious First Amendment protection versus someone’s identity? And so that’s, that’s a, I don’t think there’s an easy solution on that one, that was still a very sort of activation on college campuses.
Will Bachman 48:11
Do you? Are you seeing many cases around like living accommodations and bathrooms and dorm, you know, dorming together and signing roommates and so forth? Things like that?
Elizabeth Hansen 48:24
No, no, I don’t I haven’t had those cases. I think that schools, maybe earlier schools if they started, but you know, what different schools are doing is, you know, it’s just informing people that this is what this is what we value. These are, this is how we sign rooms. These different schools have different houses where you can they they’re giving more choice to students about where they want to live, that sort of helps ensure that they’re in a community where they feel safe and valued. For example, even some schools have a no drinking floor. Right. So whether it’s right schools are looking and I think it’s also to differentiate themselves. How do we make sure that we have places where students when they go home, they feel safe, they’re a part of a community where they feel welcome? It may happen to schools, I have only had one case where that came up, like a decade ago, where and it was really sad because a student showed up for school and was transitioning. And I think from female to male or just transitioning, and they showed up and the roommate, the roommate, actually I think was okay, but the parents respond in a way which was incredibly sad for that for I think both students, but certainly for the student who is transitioning and So the school had to, you know, respond to that, and the parents demand in a different room. So those cases I perhaps, happen. I haven’t worked at a school where that’s come up again. And again, I think it’s just I do think that it’s how the school talks about, but also, they don’t this is just these are our students. This is, you know, you know, it’s definitely in the the community and with the school choose to do I also, again, I’m finding that there’s a greater understanding and acceptance. Not always, I don’t want to say across the board, but certainly, anecdotally, it feels that there, I, this is less of an, I haven’t seen this as an issue. Again, I can’t speak for all schools. In terms, you know, I can’t speak for all schools, it more any concerns tend to come from, like, parents and you know, people of a different generation.
Will Bachman 51:00
I do not have the graph in front of me, but I know that I’ve seen it. And the graph is that college kids are having less sex today than they did 30 years ago. Right, a lot. What are your thoughts around that? Is it just the video games are better? Or are kids so much more, you know, concerned about, you know, getting in trouble consent, this, you know, issues like that? Or is that you know, that they just are more isolated? Like, what? You’re touching these issues? And, you know, deep into it? What are some of your thoughts around? Like, Why are kids having less sex?
Elizabeth Hansen 51:37
Oh, that’s a great question. Um, well, first of all, they’re often drinking less. So if I gave this presentation one time to some students, and, and I was talking about the intersection of alcohol and, and consent, and I had a student raise your hand, she’s like, scanning. Like, you know, we drink to have sex, like we drink to deal with our nerves and whatever. So then I was like, Huh, okay, that’s, that’s okay. That’s, I hear you. And so I do think that intersection matters. So I have heard they’re drinking less. And, and which, so that does make sense to me if they’re also, you know, having less sex. I think that, you know, and it just goes back to your earlier question about whether or not students are more informed. And I do think there’s some some truth in that I do think that this issue has become much more part of the sort of educational space, because schools are required to talk about it, they’re required to put information out there. So that that that certainly could be affecting their decisions, and what they’re doing it I haven’t dived, you know, it haven’t gotten too much into some of the thoughts behind maybe, maybe you have an eye? I just know that. It, you know, these issues still sort of come up. But I don’t know. So for example, I don’t know whether, if, if the trend was different, right, if there’s actually increase in students having effects, whether that would, you know, lead to more, you know, Does that, does that drive complaints? Or is it actually now students are communicating better or better informed? Or? I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t, I am interested by that. Just because I know that and I any of the statistician or researchers out there, maybe someone has the answer to this. But um, you know, I don’t know whether there’s some courts, you know, if, if there is any relation between, because the reports come from different ways, right? So reports can come, the number of reports you get depends on often on how well you’re talking about these issues on your campus. If you don’t talk about it at all, then people aren’t going to know that it’s an issue or that they have a right to complain, or there’s a place to go to complain. And what you often see is, is a correlation or between educating people on these issues and reports because now people see it as you know, a plate day the place to go with their concerns and they there’s now actually discussion around what these issues are. So I I don’t know whether there there’s been any other change with the decrease in sexual activity students. I just know that schools are very busy investigating these cases.
Will Bachman 54:51
Let’s change gears. We every episode we have a segment where we talk about what classes or professors servers that you had in college continue to resonate with you doesn’t have to be professional, it could be some maybe some thing that sparked a lifelong interest. Any classes or professors that just have stayed in your working memory and affected your life in some way?
Elizabeth Hansen 55:19
Yes. So one of my favorite classes was with the Graduate School of Design as an art history major, I could take a lot of classes with the the graduate school. And there was a class called the American city. And it was amazing, you really learned literally how cities formed and grew and just from streets developed, developing that how it’s all tied to location industry, influx of immigrants, the fires that happened after, you know, different uprisings, and I, I, I love that course. I love thinking about how the city was formed, I love thinking about the impact of, of the social pieces, as well as economic pieces around location. I just thought that class is amazing. I learned a lot about mills and sort of history of the impact of Mills on you know, sort of development of cities. And I love that course I forget that I took his name. First name is Nicholas, I forget what his last name was. But I every time I go to a city, I always think about like, go and look at the layout, I think about the old part of the city. And I’m always really, I sort of go back to that class all the time. And then the other class I had for the brief a second I was an English major. And I had a my freshman stuff. If it was maybe sophomore sort of tutorial or advisory or some some course. The instructor taught that different ways we tell stories or different ways. Yeah, we tell stories, or we communicate information. So she brought in like Hogarth’s etchings as a way to sort of communicate information and to tell a story. And she also talked about recipes, and cookbooks, and how that’s another way and how we write or how we explain to cook something, tell the story, and, and bring things alive. And I always think about that, because I like cooking, but I was sort of thinking about how you know, it’s truly is a way we communicate information. And my grandmother had written a lot of recipes for us. And so when I look at the recipes, and her beautiful, gorgeous, perfect handwriting, and she writes little notes, like, like, like little personal little, you know, it’s not just a recipe, it’s like these little personal things. And like she actually in some would reference my mom’s name, like, Pam, this is what we made. And like, you know, blah, blah, blah, like, I’ll have a little story and like, we’ll have little, which is a really personal way sort of passing on history or memories and communicating from like, from the dead with my mom about food and memories. And so that course is made really think of, you know, take a hard look at that. But also something that happened in my my life and thinking about those messages that sort of live on when recipes are passed down.
Will Bachman 58:24
No one class assignment that I’ve heard that art history professors, art history students have done is I forget the professor’s name, but assigned to students to go and just look at one piece of art in a museum for some long period of time might be an hour might be three hours, five hours, and just look at that one piece of art, which can be this profoundly affecting experience? Yeah, what can you tell us about any assignments or any classes in art history and that you had that have kind of changed the way you look at art or that? How you just think visually?
Elizabeth Hansen 59:13
Yeah, I took one of the classes I really liked taking was a course in Islamic art. And so we studied a lot of the mosques and we learned about tiles and we learn a lot I learned a lot about, you know, the imagery of leaf and it within the framework of these different paintings. And I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about, you know, like, so you have these beautiful mosques and the tilework inside, which is art, right. So the building is art. And then the tile work is art. And there’s especially I think blue was particularly fancy because of the minerals that went into it. Making it you know, and and what that symbol in the symbols. And so it made me think a lot about sort of, you know, a form of art that, that I hadn’t thought about. But also thinking about our outside sort of, I’ve studied you, your French painters and your British painters and your Dutch painters, and there’s a surf surf concert, you know, I study a lot of painting, but now thinking about the sort of Western, you know, and then now sort of thinking about other ways we communicate messages and history and other styles of painting and, and calligraphy, and writing that I, to this day, just think is first one was just beautiful. That makes you realize what’s held in different spaces we enter and different images we look at that we may not understand. Because we don’t have that history. We don’t understand the writing. But it’s so beautiful, and it’s sending a message to somebody, right? It is it is meaningful. And it is infinite. It’s okay that I can’t read that I still know it’s beautiful. And it’s an history and it’s a culture and it’s an experience that I get to I get to to heal for a little bit that I don’t feel my day to day that that class was amazing.
Will Bachman 1:01:28
Taking that lens that says, Okay, it’s not just something framed in a wall, but dialing back and considering that everything around us can think about it as art sounds like the lesson. Yeah, Lizabeth. If listeners want to follow up with you, where would you point them online, either a website or other contact info, the general public that wanted to follow up and either see what you’re doing? Find out about your firm, where would you point them online?
Elizabeth Hansen 1:01:58
So I can be found at www. III canning law.com. So E ca, n n ing, le w.com. I’ve broken up with the Twitter can’t can’t do it anymore. So I’m not on Twitter anymore. I’m also on LinkedIn. You can find me on LinkedIn, I’m still under you know, I’m, I’m still functioning my business under Elizabeth Canning, even though that’s my married name, and I’m now going back to Elizabeth Hanson. But people can find me professionally as Elizabeth Canning at that website, and then at LinkedIn.
Will Bachman 1:02:32
Fantastic, Elizabeth, thank you for joining today. This was a fascinating discussion. And I appreciate you giving me a tutorial on Title Nine and some of the issues that you’re facing, and congratulations on your firm. And we’ll put those links in the show notes.
Elizabeth Hansen 1:02:48
We do. Great. Thanks so much. Well, this is super fun.
Will Bachman 1:02:52
Thank you and listeners. If you are inclined to give this show a five star review on iTunes. It does help others discover the show and of course, you can go to 92 report.com That’s nine two report.com where you can find a transcript of this episode. And as well as every other episode that we’ve done and sign up for the weekly email. Thanks for listening