Kari Hohn stepped into the role of Title IX Coordinator on Feb. 1 after serving as Title IX Case Manager for St. Olaf College. As Case Manager, Hohn focused on reports of sexual misconduct, which she will continue to do. Now, as Coordinator, Hohn has general oversight over all things Title IX. This includes taking steps to prevent sexual violence on campus, as well as ensuring St. Olaf’s activities, clubs and athletic programs have equitable access for all students. Additionally, the Title IX Coordinator assures that students of color and students identifying as LGBTQ+ have the support and resources they need, as sexual violence occurs at higher rates in these populations than others. Hohn is the point of contact for students who wish to report sexual misconduct. After an investigation is initiated, she works with all the students involved and offers resources and accommodations to support them.
Although Hohn has always had an interest in social justice, she described the moment that ignited her passion for sexual advocacy. In her senior year at Grinnell College, where she received her undergraduate degree, Hohn volunteered to teach a healthy relationship class to teenagers in a juvenile detention center. She taught an all-female class, doing a module about sexual health.
“They were just so starved for that information,” Hohn said. “It just felt like this moment of understanding that we are not doing a good job teaching young people about sex and sexual violence and consent and sexual health.”
Hohn sees her new position as Title IX Coordinator as an opportunity to provide young people with that education. She wants to make an impact to help people understand what sexual violence looks like. A student’s college years are a highly developmental time, and provide an opportunity to do just that.
“We know students in this age group experience high rates of violence and I want to be a part of solving that problem,” she said.
In the long term, Hohn hopes to see a culture shift when it comes to sexual misconduct on college campuses. She hopes to see students intervening more when they witness sexual harassment and refusing to tolerate such behavior.
“That all goes back to the prevention and education work,” Hohn said.
Hohn’s goal in her new position as Title IX coordinator is to improve the prevention and education efforts at St. Olaf. One program Hohn mentioned changing is bystander training. This mandatory Week One training educates first year students on how to not be bystanders and intervene effectively to help prevent sexual assault. Hohn, however, believes students should get this training at multiple points during their time at St. Olaf.
“[I want to] ensure that all students, shortly after they get to campus, understand what consent is, what consent isn’t and how to navigate those situations,” Hohn said. She recognizes the importance of giving students that education within their first week at St. Olaf, but doesn’t think one touch point during Week One is enough.
“I think we need to work to enhance what they learn in that initial session so those skills become more ingrained as they get older,” Hohn said.
As Hohn works to prevent the cases of sexual misconduct at St. Olaf, she also aids students when such cases do happen. When a student comes into Hohn’s office to report an incident, Hohn wants to make sure “that they feel heard … and feel as if they have a really solid understanding of the options and resources available to them.”
And there are substantial resources provided by St. Olaf – from SARN to the counseling centers to law enforcement to Hohn herself – to support students in situations of sexual misconduct. Hohn advises students to report when they see or experience these incidents so they gain access to the resources available to them.
According to Hohn, there has been an increase in the number of sexual misconduct incidents reported. Hohn wonders if this influx is due to the nation’s current climate around sexual harassment, with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Whatever the reason, Hohn thinks the increase in reporting is a good thing. She doesn’t think this means sexual misconduct happens at a higher rate; rather, people are more comfortable reporting sexual harassment.
“I’ve heard a lot of students say, ‘when this first happened to me, I didn’t realize it was wrong or inappropriate or that it violated a policy even,’” Hohn said. “So I think there is a lot greater awareness and a greater ability to say, ‘no, that’s not acceptable. That’s not appropriate.’”
Hohn hopes to continue this culture shift and to increase students’ awareness of what behavior is and is not appropriate. She plans to use her passion for educating young people about sexual misconduct in her new job as Title IX Coordinator.
“It’s something I feel really strongly about,” Hohn said. “It’s such important work – and there’s still so much work to be done – so I am grateful to be able to work towards improving that, not only for St. Olaf, but in the broader communities too.”