College to begin search for full-time Title IX Investigator

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • September 24, 2015

Emerson is looking to hire the college’s first full-time Title IX Investigator, who will act as a third-party investigator for cases of interpersonal violence.

Title IX is a federal gender equity law that prohibits discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. There are currently two lawsuits by former Emerson students who claim the college mishandled their sexual assault cases.

The Title IX Investigator examines student reports cases of interpersonal violence, and acts as an impartial third party in determining what steps to take following a report. Michael Arno, current director of student conduct in the Office of Housing and Residence Life, previously held the position and conducted the investigations in both of the Title IX lawsuits.

According to Title IX Coordinator and search committee member Pamela White, one of the qualifications for the position is that the candidate has conducted previous investigations and has an understanding of trauma-informed response. She said that it is important that the candidate have an understanding of how factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and disability can affect these cases.

“The person has to come to the table understanding they can’t make assumptions,” White said. “When you get a complaint you can’t assume things based on the relationship of the parties involved.”

The search committee—which includes Greta Spoering, survivor advocate; Tikesha Morgan, director of multicultural student affairs; Erik Muurisepp, director of Housing and Residence Life; Jacqueline Gunning, a resident assistant and senior at Emerson, and Betsy Facher Rauch, former interim Title IX coordinator—has yet to come to a decision, but recently brought three candidates in for on campus interviews, White said.

According to Sylvia Spears, vice president of diversity and inclusion, earlier in the semester, the Sexual Assault Task force met with Margolis Healy and Associates, an independent campus safety firm that was brought in by the college. The Task Force—including members of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion—conducted an independent review of Emerson’s Title IX practices.

Following this review, both groups recommended hiring a full-time Title IX investigator. Spears said the investigator will have a critical role in fact-finding for cases that fall under the college’s sexual assault policy.

“It’s important that the investigator know Emerson’s culture, be part of the community, participate in the community, and help to educate the community about the process and what it is and what it isn’t,” Spears said.