Title VI Training: How Student Leaders Learned to Protect Their Voice


Belén Yudess ’25
Copy Editor Intern

On Feb. 29 representatives from Scripps Associated Students (SAS), the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE), and the LASPA Center for Leadership attended a Free Speech and Title VI training hosted by the Equity and Justice Leadership team. The team included Vice President Denise Nelson Nash, Associate Dean of Faculty for Racial Equality Mary Hatcher-Skeers, and former Assistant Dean of SCORE Marissiko Wheaton. This session allowed student leaders and administration to come together to discuss issues regarding free speech on college campuses.

Title VI was established in 1964 and, “prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, or national origin in any federally funded educational program” (DEI Title VI presentation) including protection for students of Arab Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish backgrounds. Throughout the training, students learned about the background of Title VI and free speech, the kinds of speech protected under the mandate, and the difference between academic and free speech. By the end, students were able to apply their understanding of these concepts to case studies surrounding Title VI issues and the display of certain political posters in public spaces.

According to Vice President Nash, the purpose of the training was to assist students in, “learn[ing] more about the fundamental principles and educational aspects tied to federal and state regulations governing free speech and Title VI.” This was supported by Dean Wheaton’s preface to the training, which addressed the importance of Title VI considering today’s political climate.

This intention was also reflected in the sentiment of student attendees who were previously unfamiliar with the federal law. “I personally didn’t know anything about Title VI before this,” said SAS Community Building Chair Geeta Karlcut ’26. “Especially with the recent protests on campus, knowing at least the basics of what free speech is protected on campus is incredibly important.”

This session occurred amidst ongoing tension between students and administration regarding the potential investigations into Scripps students’ involved in the protests in solidarity with Palestine. Scripps’ compliance with Pomona’s investigation, as well as the administration’s recent crackdown on the Motley’s poster policy, has led many students to wonder whether their ability to protest and speak freely remains protected.

Many of these concerns were discussed during the training, thus clarifying a few misconceptions or gaps in knowledge. Primarily, speech cannot be banned or punished when its main repercussion is making someone uncomfortable. Although harassment is not protected speech and is a violation of institutional policies, hate speech is technically protected. In regards to academic freedom, freedom of speech is protected for educators until it interferes with their ability to provide students with a holistic and hostile-free learning environment. Finally, Title VI cases are handled in a similar fashion as Title IX investigations.

In relation to the 5C demonstration policy, protests in response to someone’s race or ethnicity that physically blockade people can violate the demonstration policy and the code of conduct. Additionally, political or ideological posters or messages posted on an individual’s door are not subject to breaking the policy, but are when placed in other public areas without approval.

Although Title VI may not be as well-known, it is beneficial for Scripps students to be aware of its mandates due to the political activity of the student body. “Some school campuses in other states don’t have the same protections that we do under Title VI, so it’s important to know what we can do and how we can protest under Title VI and what we do that is not protected under Title VI,” said Karlcut. “Especially now, with the continued protests standing with Palestine that may be in opposition to what admin stands for or believes in, Title VI is incredibly important in protecting students and our right to free speech.”

Title VI has been safeguarding students for decades. For example, the Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) was just one ruling that demonstrated how free speech and Title VI positively impacted student activists. As Scripps students continue to use their voices to advocate against injustices, it is integral that Title VI conversations continue to ensure student safety and protection.

“[Though] the protests [in regards to] freeing Palestine are the most visible right now, protests and demonstrations have been and will continue to be the ways that students show their support or opposition to political issues,” Karlcut said. “Freedom of speech is not only a new issue, but will continue to affect all students in California throughout the years, so all students knowing their rights is important. I believe that the school should release a statement with FAQs about what is protected under Title VI, because it isn’t just the student leaders who need to know what Title VI is—every student should know their rights and protections.”

Photo Courtesy of Belén Yudess ’25

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