Office of Equal Opportunity extends Title IX reach


Parker Purifoy

Formerly the Title IX office, Emerson’s Office of Equal Opportunity will address issues of discrimination, sexual violence and harassment on campus.

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

The Office of Equal Opportunity will expand the scope of responsibility of the former Office of Title IX following its absorption of the office in August.

The OEO will serve as the college’s on-campus discrimination resource, addressing issues of harassment, sexual violence, and discrimination for students, faculty, and staff, along with managing the responsibilites left by the Title IX Office. 

“OEO is a robust and comprehensive resource for the community expanding its work to address the concerns of the entire Emerson community on all campuses,” Title IX and ADA/Section 504 Coordinator Sonia Jurado wrote in a statement.

Prior to accepting her role at Emerson, Juardo acted as the director of the OEO at Brandeis University. In her new role, she leads the OEO, working alongside Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Investigator Amy Condon. The office hopes to hire two more full-time staff members to the office—another deputy and a department coordinator—before the conclusion of the fall semester. 

Investigators are responsible for reviewing cases, listening to impacted parties, and investigating incidents. The department coordinator helps manage the work of the office.

The introduction of the new office comes following criticisms the college received in April regarding the rumored lack of a Title IX Office. Students alleged that Emerson operated without a Title IX office as information regarding staff to report incidents to could not be found—an allegation Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe put to rest at the Faculty Institute earlier this month.

“There’s a rumor going around that for a period of time last year we did not have a Title IX Office,” Hoppe said. “We have never not had a Title IX Office. There’s always been staff, always been an attorney.”

Jurado was unable to comment on how the former Title IX Office handled prior cases but pledged OEO to be very responsive to all reports and allow all impacted parties to control what happens within their case.

“In some situations, an impacted party may choose to pursue a formal complaint, where OEO would conduct a full investigation into the alleged conduct,” she wrote. “There are also other informal options available as alternatives to a formal investigation that someone can choose instead.”

In a formal complaint, OEO will gather information as a “neutral factfinder” in order to understand what happened in a situation. Individuals trained in making informed decisions based on the findings of OEO investigations would then decide if the conduct violated the college’s policy. With complaints where the impacted party is looking for an informal resolution—things like No Contact Orders—steps like educational conversations with the responsible party or housing and class changes can be taken. Both processes are uniform for students, faculty, and staff.

“Our response is very much tailored to the needs and experience of the impacted party,” Jurado wrote. “We also make sure to connect people with support resources both on and off campus.”

The office acts as a place of accountability for those offenders, she continued, noting collaboration between community services is a necessary part of accountability. Jurado anticipates the Social Justice Center to be a critical part of working to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence.

OEO hopes to start the academic year with open forums where community members can meet and learn more about the office and welcomes invitations to speak to groups, provide presentations, or answer questions.