As women redefine society’s classic role for them, education is a great equalizer. TU’s recently hired Title IX Coordinator, TU alumnus Matthew Warren (BA ’06, MA ’09) is here to ensure an educational environment free from sex discrimination.
“This is a very exciting time to be in this subject matter, because we are going through a national movement. You can look at the #MeToo campaign as an example of the changing political and social landscape surrounding sexual harassment and discrimination,” Warren said. “Survivors are more comfortable about reporting sexual misconduct and more perpetrators are being held accountable. That is a wonderful and welcome change. This is the perfect time for colleges and universities to make some significant, positive changes in the way that they address this topic.”
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 declaring that no educational institutions that receive federal funding can discriminate on the basis of sex, which greatly influenced the treatment of female college athletes; but now, Title IX broadly prohibits sexual misconduct in recruitment, admissions, employment, retention and access to educational programs or activities. “It applies to all instances of differential treatment on the basis of sex as well as sexual harassment and assault,” Warren explained.
Sexual assault is covered by Title IX. If universities do not fully and fairly investigate sexual assault or harassment reports, they may be fostering an environment that deprives female and male students of the ability to get an education. “Here at TU, that’s not how we operate. Students are encouraged to report sexual assault to university officials. Your report will be taken seriously, and we will do everything we can to both provide you resources to help you complete your education,” Warren said. “From on-campus counseling services to academic assistance, TU offers a myriad of resources available to survivors of sexual assault. TU also provides internal grievance procedures to efficiently adjudicate sexual assault reports with fairness to both parties.”
As a high school state champion in debate and public speaking, Warren had a penchant for advocating for fairness and equality, which sparked his law school plans. “I thought there was a direct parallel to debate and being a litigator,” he said. Coming from a farming family, Warren’s parents assured him the ranch-life is always open to him, but if he wanted a different career, keep his options open. “They said ‘you should look at being a doctor, a lawyer or an architect.’ Those were the three options,” Warren laughed. “I really don’t like blood. No thank you on that one.” Law school became the goal.
During his undergraduate years at TU, Warren never strayed from his law school path. By winning the highly competitive and distinguished Harry S. Truman Scholarship his junior year, he furthered his plans to use his law education for public service. For months, Warren prepped for his Truman scholarship interview.
“I was so impressed how faculty and staff took time out of their days to set up mock interviews for me,” he said. “That was a great highlight of my time here at TU.”
Unexpectedly, Warren’s greatest academic achievement was followed by the loss of his mother. “That was a difficult time for me, but TU was supportive and that made a world of difference. I had classmates and even professors attend my mom’s funeral in Stillwater,” Warren said. “The school even put her name in the in memoriam list in the graduation program. Since I graduated that same year, we were listed in the same program.” While taking care of his mother’s estate, Warren elected to stay in Tulsa and completed a masters in English Literature at TU.
Fulfilling his high school dreams, Warren finally attended The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. “Law school was kind of like high school,” he said. “You have lockers in the hall way, and everyone attends the same classes.” The law school climate bolstered his off-to-save-the-world mindset, and Warren was ready to don a the superhero cape or just a dapper suit.
After working for Oklahoma Federal Judge Timothy DeGiusti, he prosecuted sexual assault cases at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office. And after a stint in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, Warren entered private practice at the law firm of Conner and Winters, LLP. “You get to a point in your career as a lawyer where you are either going to go all in on this partnership track, and you can see the next 35 years of your life, or you take that experience and you dovetail it into something else,” Warren explained. “I enjoyed my experience at Conner & Winters, but I was ready for a new chapter.”
When the Title IX Coordinator position became open, Warren melded his experience in sexual assault prosecution and knowledge of employment law into a well-suited job. Back to his old stomping ground, Warren has a goal — “I want to make sure the students that are here today have the same kind of experience that I had: because I had a very positive, life-changing experience at TU,” he said. “I know that this university has that power. I am here to assist TU in ensuring that all members of our campus community have access to an educational environment free from sex discrimination.”