Whittier College’s new Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities and Lead Title IX Investigator Siobhan Skerritt hopes to make Title IX reporting a more equitable and trusted process in her new position. Skerritt is the chair of the Poet Early Action Program (PEAP), the Bias Incident Committee, and the Title IX Committee. She is responsible for student conduct as well as leading student, staff, and faculty through Title IX cases.
Skerritt came to Whittier College seeking a place to call home. “I felt like [Whittier] was a place where I could belong, both on the campus and in the community, and it hasn’t proved me wrong yet,” she said. Skerritt has already felt support from the community through her coworkers. “When Betsy DeVos gave her statement on the future of Title IX, I got emails from staff, faculty, and administration who I’ve met in passing, or met at a meeting, or gave a presentation to. They have already decided and already said that they are going to do everything possible to make sure that [I] belong,” said Skerritt.
“For me, that was true confirmation I’m where I’m supposed to be. I felt like I could belong here. I feel safe and taken care of, and I feel like there is a genuine investment in me here.”
Skerritt grew up in North Jersey and attended Marist College in New York for her undergraduate education. She majored in social work and began her career in education running a daycare. She completed her Master’s degree at Salem State University and then got her first job at Temple University, where she discovered her passion for working with college students. After her time at Temple University, she spent a year at University of California Santa Cruz.
In her first year at Whittier, Skerritt hopes to build connections with students and improve upon the perception of the Title IX reporting process. “I make sure that the campus has an understanding of what the policy and procedure is, as well as the educational component of bystander intervention and consent,” Skerritt said. “Right now, I’m doing a lot of education [and I’m] trying to build bridges and build trust in our processes.”
Skerritt is also looking forward to becoming a part of the community outside of her work in the Dean of Students Office. She can’t wait for the trip to Disneyland with the Leadership Experiences and Programing (LEAP) Office as well as attending games and events. Skerritt is excited to watch the class of 2018 graduate and see their growth and development over the course of her first year at Whittier.
Skerritt sees all aspects of her job as important. “I do not take PEAP concerns or conduct concerns over Title IX concerns or vice versa. Everything has a sense of urgency when it comes across my desk because until I know that it is okay, it’s not okay,” Skerritt said.
Skerrit hopes to show the Whittier College community that the process of reporting will be fair for all involved. “Identifying as an Afro-Latinx woman, I’ve learned that the systems aren’t built for everyone. These processes — they aren’t equitable, they aren’t fair,” said Skerritt. “I feel like, even on college campuses, I’ve seen a lot of processes that are not fair for the victim, respondent, or accused. There’s not an education component. It’s more punitive and it resembles our court system [and] our jail system. For me, that is a struggle, especially at an institution like this where our students are mainly students of color.”
It is important to Skerritt that all students feel they belong. “I’m going to be tired, exhausted, and drained having to be this voice and representation, but I’d rather be able to do that, work to help those that come along — a victim and respondent, someone who doesn’t feel that they belong — and provide that than have someone go through the negative experiences that I have gone through.”
Skerritt hopes to provide Whittier College with more resources and education about the Title IX reporting process and create a better perception of the process. “For me, it’s about trying to build trust in a process and trying to empower people and give agency so that they can understand how to navigate through the process,” she said.
Skerritt’s experiences as a student push her to provide more support for her community. “I think I’m so passionate because I’ve been on the end of both the person who has not received the right resources and the person who was completely supported, so [I have] gone through both of those in different aspects of my higher education career,” Skerrit said. “I really want to support students as they go through this.”