by Colin McCoy, staff writer
A committee was appointed at the beginning of this semester to conduct a search for a new director for the Gender and Relationship Center. This position will involve the management and leadership of the RISE and Empower crews, as well as the roles of primary crisis responder and Title IX trainer.
Title IX is a law that prohibits educational institutions receiving federal funding to discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.
In 2011, a letter known as The Dear Colleague Letter was issued by the Department of Education. The letter clarified that Title IX requires institutions of higher education to take action to end sexual violence.
Paul Perrine, Dean of Students at Warren Wilson, is the college’s Title IX coordinator. He is also involved in the search for the new director.
“One of the things Title IX made very clear – that The Dear Colleague Letter made very clear – was that they expect colleges to train faculty, staff and appropriate students regularly on Title IX and how to recognize sexual assault and how to respond appropriately to the issues,” Perrine said. “So this person then would help fulfill that requirement to train on a regular basis.”
Perrine understands the legal consequences of a Title IX violation.
“There are warning letters and investigations and opportunities to correct actions, so there’s lots of steps in between,” Perrine said. “At the very end of it you could lose your federal funding. It could be devastating for a college like us.”
The college is moving quickly to fill the position because of the magnitude of violation penalties.
Megan Letchworth, interim RISE supervisor, and Brian Ammons, interim Empower supervisor, are the co-chairs of the search committee. They are accompanied by student and faculty representatives.
Since the search began, seven candidates have been selected from a pool of about 30 applicants. The committee is further narrowing that number by conducting a series of phone and on campus interviews.
“We’re moving very aggressively,” Letchworth said. “We have one person confirmed coming [for an on campus interview] and then, depending on how that goes, we may move forward with the hiring process or we may go back to the drawing board. Our goal is to get someone here as soon as we can.”
Letchworth is in charge of the interview structure. She wants candidates to prove that they can quickly understand campus culture and move the college forward as an institution. Thus, she is asking all candidates to present a workshop presentation about a topic relating to the Gender & Relationship Center.
At least one of the three students on the committee has been present at all of the meetings and interviews.
Lukas LaRiviere, member of the Empower crew is one of the student representatives on the search committee.
“I think this position is a position that needs to get filled, sooner rather than later, but…I’m not going to make the mistake of hiring the wrong person,” LaRiviere said.
Since the range of topics the position will cover is broad, the search committee is looking for specific qualities.
“In the job description [The Gender and Relationship Center] is not just a women’s center, it’s also basically a queer resource center,” LaRiviere said. “We don’t want to have someone come in who we don’t think can fill that position the way it needs to get filled.”
“We are looking for people who have not only strong management skills, in terms of working with a crew, but also someone who is going to continue to be a leader on our campus in terms of these issues,” Letchworth said. “And not only that, but people who have had experience working with these issues before – which is kind of a large range of topics because they do oversee RISE and Empower and some of those topics kind of overlap.”
The search committee is aiming to find a candidate with experience in sexual assault prevention and advocacy on a college campus.
“We’re looking for people who have worked on a college campus before, and who have that experience working with students and doing prevention work,” Letchworth said.
“The [candidates] we’re bringing on campus, all have experience in crisis response. All of our candidates have college level experience, whether or not the crisis response was at a college or in the community of a college town,” LaRiviere says.
The committee is hoping that a background working in a college atmosphere will help with Title IX recognition. This is a major factor in the search.
“One of the most important things is making sure they’re Title IX aware or have demonstrated that they can very quickly catch up to the latest in the changes in law,” LaRiviere said. “It’s about making sure everyone knows the intricacies of Title IX.”
“If we’re wanting someone to come in and really help educate the campus, we would want them to come in with a working knowledge,” Perrine said. “Any sexual assault director on a college campus needs to have very intricate working knowledge of what Title IX requirements are.”
Perrine expects the director to use Title IX knowledge to train the campus on its complexities.
“They would talk at orientation and provide a general outline and expectation and help students understand what will happen,” Perrine said. “But a lot of the trainings will be with student leaders – RA’s, RD’s, crew leaders, crew supervisors – mostly to prevent a student from feeling like there concern was not addressed accurately by the college.”
Perrine has confidence in the college’s understanding and implementation of Title IX. Before The Dear Colleague Letter, Wilson was already taking appropriate measures to end sexual violence on campus.
“We actually do it very well. We were already ahead of the curve when it comes to Title IX,” Perrine said. “We had a pretty clear process; we investigated and reported accurately, and we followed the guidelines that were already there.”
While Title IX understanding is a high priority for the new position, the search committee is also looking for strong crisis response and advocacy skills.
“One of the main roles of this position is to make sure that if a sexual assault happens, that the student is properly taken care of and heard, and that it gets reported in the proper routes,” LaRiviere said. “They are going to serve as an advocate to the victim during whatever kind of process comes out during Title IX hearings.”
LaRiviere recognizes the inevitable changes the new director will bring for RISE and Empower.
“You’re going to have students transitioning out of the role of crisis response and transitioning more into prevention. It’s going to be a different kind of relationship,” LaRiviere said. “But I see the potential for strong bonds to be made.”