The University is introducing a new full-time position in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Equity Compliance Director & Deputy Title IX Coordinator. The new employee will be responsible for ensuring that the University’s policies and practices comply with Title IX, Title VII, and other Equal Opportunity laws at both the federal and state levels. The search has currently been narrowed to three candidates: Catherine Rombeau, Lance Houston and Deborah Colucci.
Title IX of the Educational Amendments Acts of 1972 prohibits educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex, while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sex, or ethnicity.
“The Equity Compliance Director & Deputy Title IX Coordinator will coordinate, conduct informal and formal investigations, provide and monitor training programs with respect to equal opportunity and discrimination issues,” the Careers at Wesleyan website reads.
This past week, the University hosted separated forums for each candidate. Rombeau spoke on Friday, April 25; Houston spoke Wednesday, April 30; and Colucci spoke yesterday, May 1.
Each forum had the same structure, beginning with an introduction of the candidate, followed by a Title VII and Title IX training session, and finally concluded with a Q&A section. Community participation was encouraged in both the candidate search process and open forums.
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias headed the search committee, which was comprised of Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton, WSA Student Affairs Committee Chair Kate Cullen ’16, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Jennifer D’Andrea, and Interim Captain of Public Safety Paul Verrillo.
Farias commented on the process of choosing a candidate and on the format of the open forum.
“This is the Wesleyan process,” Farias said. “…For the the director level, you go through the full day process, and you have a community discussion…. I think for the community, particularly with this issue right now—Title VII and Title IX—it’s a hyper salient conversation, so it makes sense to have an open forum discussion. There’s also a certain level of skill the search committee wants to see in person—the performative aspect of the job.”
Cullen spoke to the importance of community engagement in regard to the Equity Compliance Director & Deputy Title IX Coordinator, a position that will undoubtedly deal with sexual assault on campus.
“I expect a good student turnout as sexual assault and Title IX is a hot issue on campus,” Cullen wrote in an email to The Argus. “I also hope we can engage in a meaningful dialogue with the candidates since this truly is an important job that will hopefully have a big impact on campus.”
D’Andrea commented on the search process, explaining the qualifications they were looking for in each candidate.
“The university conducted a national search to identify qualified candidates for this position,” D’Andrea wrote in an email to The Argus. “All three candidates possess a wealth of knowledge in the area of Title IX and Title VII, and are motivated to work with students in a higher education setting.”
In their presentations, the candidates were tasked with offering training on Title VII and Title IX. In addition, candidates scrutinized potential areas of confusion between the two anti-discrimination laws, often offering fictional discrimination situations.
Farias spoke on the importance of distinguishing between the two different laws.
“Lots of people are experts in Title VII [and] you have less folks…[who] are experts in Title IX,” Farias said. “I need somebody who can cross both streams…. We’re…looking for a dynamic person that understands and has a full grasp of those laws and is able to function in the Wesleyan ecosphere—understanding that they’re not only going to be dealing with faculty; they’re going to be dealing with Wesleyan students, they’re going to be dealing with staff, and they’re going to be dealing with all three of those simultaneously at any given point.”
D’Andrea furthered Farias’ point, exploring the capacity for each candidate to work with students.
“[A]s director of CAPS, I am deeply invested in the selection of the person who will be interacting with students who come forward with Title IX and Title [VII] issues,” D’Andrea wrote in an email to The Argus. “[I]t is important to me that we select a candidate who is an expert in this area, and who possesses the sensitivity and interpersonal skills to effectively interact with students in the course of doing this very difficult work.”
Civic Engagement Fellow Jelisa Adair ’13, who attended Houston’s open forum, commented on her unique perspective on the selection process.
“Coming from being…a student and now becoming a staff member, I’m able to so much more clearly see the way we treat staff versus the way that we treat students,” Adair said. “I’ve had training like this before, but I never had training like this as a student…. It’s important that whoever we get in this position is able to relay this information to the student body, because I don’t think it has been done before in a good way.”