Editor’s Note: This story contains mention of sexual assault and violence which some may find disturbing. 

Students outraged with the time it takes to process sexual assault cases at NAU met at the University Union at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and marched to the Title IX office located in the Gammage Building.

Title IX protects students from gender discrimination and handles cases of sexual assault. Elyce Morris has been the coordinator of the office since 2020. 

Morris answered questions, discussed what should change and shared future plans for Title IX outside of the Gammage Building, near Old Main, during the sit-in. 

“I value you and respect your right to speak and to be heard about your experiences and no one can deny you of sharing your experiences,” Morris said.

Between 2018 and 2020, there were 60 reported rape cases on campus, 67 reported domestic violence cases and 52 reports of stalking. The national average for a college campus is six reported cases of rape, three domestic violence cases and six reported stalkings.

NAU student Stephanie Thompson helped organize the march and spoke to students about what needed to change. 

“Title IX is the office on campus meant to support you in these reports and in your time of trauma, but instead Title IX sends out campus safety reports regarding sexual assault and puts it on our union doors like the advertisement for the lunch menu that day,” Thompson said. “We are normalizing campus sexual assault.” 

Before marching to the Title IX office, Thompson and other advocates spoke outside the Union about personal stories and statistics on campus regarding sexual assault. 

Thompson said in 2021, 60 sexual assaults occurred on campus, averaging out to around five per month. ASU, with a student body of about 70,000 students compared to NAU’s 30,000, has almost equal sexual assault rates. 

Corbin Malinka, a sophomore at NAU, also helped organize the march to raise awareness about sexual assault. 

“At the end of the day, you can be as good of a person as possible, but if your organization is failing to prosecute, that is your responsibility to start putting it into motion,” Malinka said. 

Thompson said there have been eight sexual assaults on campus since the start of 2023.

At 3 p.m., the group marched to Gammage and lined up across the building wearing shades of blue – teal is the sexual assault awareness color – and holding up signs until 5:30 p.m. when the building closed. 

Thompson listed demands for Morris which included the presence of at least one female officer on campus in the evenings to help in situations of possible sexual assault for victims who may not feel comfortable disclosing information to a male officer. Additionally, Thompson requested better accommodations and support tools given to students at parties for harm reduction and ensuring legal aid or an attorney is offered to survivors at little cost. 

"Elyce Morris should use her power and her background as a lawyer to make sure that these cases are being prosecuted or at least being investigated," Malinka said.  

Many students who shared their stories said Title IX waited to address their case until the perpetrator graduated, so the office could not do anything since the perpetrator did not attend the university anymore. 

Thompson said at that point the only thing Title IX does is make sure the perpetrator cannot come back and attend NAU. 

“When I talk about improving the process it includes things like hearing from you and other students so we will typically ask people what can we do better and what can we do differently,” Morris said. “We are in the process of creating a form for everyone who interacts with our office to be able to provide feedback so that we can know how to improve.” 

Students formed a line down the sidewalk to ask questions and express concerns to Morris about changes they want to happen. 

Many students who attended the march expressed concern about the limited training NAUPD has around cases of sexual assault. 

Two NAUPD officers are on campus at all times. A community assistant (CA) who attended the march said CA’s have mandatory training seminars on how to handle instances of sexual assault while NAUPD does not. 

“Why would people who feel unsafe on campus spend thousands and thousands of dollars to go here?” Thompson said. 

Thompson said she would like to have a follow-up panel with Morris in a few months to discuss what demands have been enacted or are in the process of being enacted. 

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