Title IX hiring process failed to involve students enough

The two-year vacancy in the Title IX office is finally being filled. But the hiring process for the Deputy Title IX Coordinator has brought its own shortcomings.  

The position has remained vacant since January 2018. In the meantime, the college hired outside investigators to serve on a case-by-case basis. On Oct. 4, the Social Justice Center sent out a campus-wide email about upcoming campus visits from the three candidates vying for the job. 

During the visits, the finalists presented Title IX regulations and explained what skills they would bring to the position. The first new candidate spoke on Oct. 7, followed by the second candidate on Oct. 15. A third candidate dropped out of the process before their scheduled session. 

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All online communication about the visits did not include the names of the candidates due to privacy reasons. The Social Justice Center requested that The Beacon not publish their names in case candidates’ current employers did not know they were applying for a position at Emerson. 

It was a good first step from the school to give students access to these campus visits. Clearly, the administration hoped engaged students would raise their voices and participate in this vital selection process. 

However, the college scheduled all of the visits for mid-morning when most students are busy and unable to attend them. The email did clarify that candidates had scheduling conflicts. But the administration knows the reality of students’ schedules and should have realized that the panels’ timing was unacceptable if they only planned to offer one slot per candidate. 

Additionally, the administration did not provide any alternative avenues for students who could not attend to learn about each panels’ happenings or to provide feedback on candidates’ performances. 

We understand the Title IX office maintains a level of secrecy to protect the safety and privacy of victims and investigators. But there are many ways the college could have given students a stronger voice in this process. It’s unfair that students’ entire involvement in the selection was contingent on their attendance of a one-time event. 

Even though candidates’ resumes are available for review in the Social Justice Center, a larger portion of students deserved to meet the candidates in-person and be given the opportunity to ask them questions about the job and the office. 

If there was no other time to hold these workshops, the college should have at least posted summaries of what happened at all of the meetings and sent them out via email. Alternatively, the college could have set up “open office hours” for the candidates where students could come in, make comments, and ask questions— for a period of time longer than one hour on a weekday morning. 

Once appointed, the Deputy Title IX Coordinator will play a prominent role in the way unfinished sexual assault cases on campus are handled. The appointee would also set the tone for the way the college approaches future sexual harassment accusations. 

With this search for a new investigator, Emerson had the opportunity to make progress in how it addresses transparency in their hiring process—and we appreciate that they made an effort to do so. Students have expressed discontent multiple times with how the college resolves these cases. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into the college for alleged Title IX violations, alongside 55 other schools nationwide.

But with this attempt at transparency, we feel the college fell short of achieving the level of accountability students expect. The college needs to hold themselves to a higher standard for accessibility and initiative in the hiring process. 

If we can receive weekly emails telling us how the sidewalk expansion is going, then we can hear more about the progress in the search for a vital member of the Title IX office. 

The Beacon’s editorial board has advocated for improved practices in the Title IX office many times. Emerson students have also repeatedly called for improvements in and around the office. In April 2019, a group of students gathered together to discuss how the college mishandles sexual misconduct cases after a list of alleged accusers was posted on the Little Building scaffolding. 

In the future, the administration can’t settle for bare minimum transparency—they need to consider how they can make the Title IX office as accessible and transparent as possible so students can be informed, aware, and educated. 

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