Vice President and Dean of Students Bruce Smith told the Quaker Campus on Sept. 6, that he would be acting as Interim Title IX Coordinator. Prior to this semester, Jeanne Ortiz had held the position of Title IX Coordinator as Interim Vice President and Dean of Students. Despite Smith becoming the permanent Vice President and Dean of Students, his position as Title IX Coordinator is not permanent.
Title IX is a law that legally “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that is federally funded” and is a policy we follow at WC. Title IX violations include unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical sexual conduct, and offensive and/or frequent remarks about a person’s sex, which can interfere with one’s education and participation in an activity.
Title IX coordinators have a range of responsibilities, including investigating sexual assault cases on campus. For more on the Title IX process, see “Siobhan Skerrit seeks equity for all” at thequakercampus.org. The Title IX Coordinator’s position at WC, according to the WC website, is to chair a committee of dedicated student and faculty groups (including the Associated Students of Whittier College, Dean of Students Office, Dean of the Faculty Office, Human Resources Department, Residential Life, Counseling Center, Athletics Department, and Support Person Program) to “respond to or prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and all other forms of sexual misconduct,” in accordance with Title IX policy.
This role is integral to student life at all times, but is especially important in the first few weeks of the semester. “The beginning of the Fall is known as the ‘red zone,’” said Smith, “[because] new people come to campus who are not quite sure about policy and are eager to meet new people and they violate policies.” Despite being in the ‘red zone,’ Smith believes WC is prepared to defend Title IX. “What we want to be prepared to do is respond to any report of a violation of our policy and I think we’re prepared to do that,” he says. “I can’t say that it’s ideal to have someone here in the position of Title IX Coordinator who’s interim, but I know that we’re prepared.”
This preparation comes from the integrity of the Title IX Committee, Deputy Title IX Coordinators, and the Counseling Center, as well as his own experience as a higher education administrator in student life.
Smith previously worked at Reed College and was heavily . . . involved in their Title IX process, was a support person for Title IX respondents, and . . . supervised the Interim Assistant Dean in Title IX offense prevention and response.
“The key part of this for me is prevention,” Smith says of Whittier College’s Title IX preparedness. “One of the key things I notice here is that we have a lot of conversation about investigation and adjudication and what I would love to see is more conversation about education, awareness, and prevention.”
As Interim Title IX Coordinator, Smith is the “decision-maker” in Title IX offense decisions whereas deputies “work closely with me in gathering information, better understanding what our rights and obligations are, and contribute to decision making,” said Smith.
There are two Deputy Title IX Coordinators: Cynthia Joseph, who handles complaints about the staff and Whittier Law School as Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development, and sal johnston, who handles complaints about faculty as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty.
Smith stated that a search for a permanent Title IX Coordinator will soon begin. “That search isn’t quite underway right now [because] we are in the process of working on the job description. We want to have a very solid job description and we should be doing that soon,” he said, though he could not provide a definitive timeline.
According to Smith, the issue of developing a new job description comes from the fact that he, as acting Title IX Coordinator, has not yet defined it and instead “a few people get to have a hand in contributing to [the description] and that is in someone else’s hands right now.”
Students wishing to officially report sexual misconduct under the Title IX policy (either in addition to or instead of local law enforcement) can contact the Interim Title IX Coordinator, a Deputy Title IX Coordinator, a Campus Safety Officer, and/or designated College grievance officers. These grievance officers include the two Deputy Title IX Coordinators, Vice President of Finance and Administration James Dunkelman, and Interim Dean of WC Law School Rudy Hasl.
If a student wishes to discuss a Title IX offense but does not wish to report it, they may go to the Counseling Center, which is a confidential and free resource for students. Smith remarks that he has full confidence in the Counseling Center’s ability to handle such discussions.
For more information regarding options for officially or confidentially reporting Title IX offenses, students can read the Whittier College Sexual Misconduct Policy section of the WC website, which offers both campus-related and public domain resources, or contact any of the faculty mentioned above.