Trinity is currently searching for one person to hold the dual position of compliance officer and Title IX coordinator — a role currently occupied by Pam Johnston.
Johnston, who plans to retire in April, also occupies the role of assistant vice president for Human Resources (HR). Instead of hiring one person to replace Johnston, the administration will hire one person for HR and another to occupy the new position that will take over Title IX and Equal Opportunity (EO) responsibilities.
In an email interview, Johnston explained what Title IX covers and why the new role will be important to Trinity.
“In summary, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence and, of course, mandates gender equity in any program or activity,” Johnston wrote. “With the creation of the new compliance officer and Title IX coordinator position, the university is affirming the importance of this role.”
Rachel Rolf, general counsel for Trinity, is serving as the head of the search committee for the new compliance officer and Title IX coordinator.
“Title IX is one part of EO, or Equal Opportunity work. Title IX is about discrimination on the basis of sex, but there is a whole host of other equal opportunity laws that look at other protected classes like race, national origin, religion, disability, etc. [The compliance officer/Title IX coordinator] would have responsibility not only over the Title IX realm but also over other areas of EO,” Rolf said.
Senior Julia Shults, a student on the search committee, believes Title IX and other EO laws are important in the daily lives of students, so they should understand these laws and what they mean.
“The Title IX coordinator is going to be in charge of not only the protocols and procedures for dealing with sexual assault or rape cases here on campus with students and faculty, but they’re also going to be in charge of harassment claims and all of the stuff we hope we never have to face or deal with, but that when it happens, we want a strong support system,” Shults said.
Shults became involved with the search for the new compliance officer and Title IX coordinator when she was an SGA senator for the senior class in 2018.
“I believe [the search team] reached out to Dean Tuttle, who is one of the advisors for the student government and asked if there were any senators he would recommend, and he asked me if I would be willing to join the team. It’s something that I’m fairly passionate about, and I was happy to step in and do it,” Shults said.
Currently, the United States Department of Education has made proposed changes to Title IX, and those amendments are currently in the “notice and comment” stage, meaning that citizens can leave a comment concerning their thoughts on the proposed changes to Title IX.
“Right now, there are regulations that have been proposed [to Title IX] and it’s in the comment period, and that comment period will wrap up at the end of January. Once the Department of Education gathers all the comments, they process through them and decide if they want to make modifications to what they’ve proposed, if they want to keep it the same, or if they want to go back to the drawing board and start over,” Rolf said.
A few of the proposed changes to Title IX would make it more difficult for survivors of sexual assault or harassment to come forward and for schools to investigate these claims. Under one proposed change, schools would only be required to act when assault or harassment completely denies a student of education or educational programs.
Another proposed change would limit a school’s ability to investigate claims of sexual assault that occur off-campus, including off-campus parties and events where a student is studying abroad, even if the effects of the assault impairs the student’s education.
“Something that we’re asking candidates is, ‘How are you anticipating making changes and how are you going to help spread the word about what the changes are?’ Because there are certain things in the Trinity process now that would no longer be allowed or that we would have to add or change,” Shults said.
If you are interested in learning more about the proposed changes to Title IX, www.knowyourix.org has resources to explain the changes and offer support in leaving a comment. The notice and comment process ends on Jan. 28, and you can leave your comment on www.regulations.gov by that date.