University to roll out changes to Title IX policies, procedures

After an intensive, semester-long examination of Baldwin Wallace’s discrimination and Title IX policies and procedures, university administration is rolling out several organizational changes in these areas.

Three bodies, some new and some adapted or reorganized, have taken on roles in BW’s discrimination procedure and response: the Equity Resolution Investigators, the Campus Safety Committee, and the Title IX Education and Outreach Team.

These changes, in part, follow the recommendations of last semester’s Campus Safety Task Force. That group — composed of faculty, staff, students, and outside experts — was created to address student concerns raised in early January about campus safety, especially regarding issues of sexual misconduct.

Dr. Tom Sutton, professor of political science and co-chair of the Campus Safety Task Force, said he was impressed with the university’s embrace of changes to the system.

“I’ve got to say, I’m very pleased with how responsive the university has been to the recommendations of the task force in a short time span,” Sutton said. “We put out the report at the end of the semester, and by early July, I was having meetings with CJ [Harkness] about all these things that we were going to put into place.”

Charles “CJ” Harkness, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator, said that in addition to the recommendations from the task force, his office consulted a template from the Association of Title IX Administrators that “reflected best practice in higher education” for the new organizational changes as well as for the changes in discrimination policy and procedure.

The changes to policy and procedure are currently being reviewed and will be implemented later in the semester, he said.

Though Harkness retains his role as Title IX coordinator, he is no longer the main person coordinating the response to Title IX complaints. That duty has been delegated to the new Equity Resolution Coordinator, Dr. Nancy Gussett, an associate professor of psychology who has recently served as a discrimination investigator.

In this role, Gussett will coordinate the Equity Resolution Investigators. Though the investigators have always been a separate group, Harkness said it “has been reconstituted in terms of number of people and who’s on it.”

Gussett will oversee and train the six investigators, an increase from five last year. She also will assign investigators to respond to sexual misconduct complaints.

Four investigators are new to the role: Dr. Molly Swiger, chair of the communication arts and sciences department; Mary Dobrea-Grindahl, chair of the keyboard department and professor of music theory and keyboard in the Conservatory of Music; Bob Beyer, associate director of residence life and student conduct; and Gary Black, head of Safety and Security. Two investigators—Janet Leonard, director of benefits in the Human Resources department, and Gerrie Paino, coordinator of the school of natural sciences, mathematics and computing—are returning from last year.

Harkness said that he will oversee Gussett’s role and will continue to help coordinate the response to non-Title IX discrimination complaints, though the plan is for her to “eventually” coordinate the response to all discrimination complaints.

The Campus Safety Committee, meanwhile, is a new body that is co-chaired by the pair who co-chaired the Campus Safety Task Force last semester: Dr. Tom Sutton and Dr. Sophia Kallergis, director of the BW counseling center. The body will meet twice a semester to review how the school is addressing safety concerns in the BW community, said Sutton.

“It’s intended to be an oversight committee that will receive information about what’s happening in a broad spectrum of all things safety on campus,” Sutton said.

The group is comprised of faculty, staff, and students. The committee is on a rotating basis and all members will serve limited terms, Sutton said. The committee will receive reports from people directly involved in procedure—including Gussett and Harkness as well as the co-chairs of the Title IX Education and Outreach Team and the head of Safety and Security—and will report to President Bob Helmer.

“We’re the link to President Helmer to keep him informed and to keep the campus informed about what’s going on,” said Sutton.

Sutton said that the Campus Safety Committee is “a bit of a parallel” to last semester’s task force, though the role of the committee is somewhat different.

“The difference is that it won’t be an active investigation of everything we’re doing all the time. We’ll be more of a steering committee, I guess would be the parallel,” said Sutton. “So we will initiate an investigation if needed, and part of what I like about this structure is it provides a policy body that looks more at the long term.”

Sutton said that this body is in place to help the school be better equipped and prepared to handle concerns that might arise as they did in January.

“We’ll have a fire department to deal with the fire instead of trying to create one,” he said.

The Title IX Education and Outreach Team was adapted and expanded from the pre-existing Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force. The team is co-chaired by Timothy Hall, the Counseling Center’s assistant director of outreach and prevention, and Todd Heft, an area coordinator for Residence Life. The team includes representatives from various areas of campus, including representatives from each academic school, from Residence Life, from fraternity and sorority life, from athletics, and from the Center for Inclusion.

Harkness said that these individual representatives, or “resource persons,” will be trained on policy and process and will be made aware of the resources available to the BW community. They will be “charged to establish a rapport” with faculty, staff, and students in their respective areas so they can be the “go-to people” to provide accurate information. This is an effort to ensure that all areas of campus are receiving the same information and have the same access to information, said Harkness.

The group is also to produce and implement a sexual misconduct prevention plan, said Harkness, and will host and promote a number of events to bring awareness to sexual misconduct prevention and response. The team is a “working committee” that is open to including other individuals who wish to be involved.

“It is an open committee, and if others want to join in the work, they can reach out to [Hall] or [Heft] to join in,” Harkness said. “So there are some people that we are deliberately making sure are there, but it’s not a closed committee.”

Though it is too early in the semester to see the impact of these organizational changes, Sutton said he hopes that they will have a positive effect on the campus community.

“I’m hopeful that this will result in people who have concerns knowing where to go, getting those concerns addressed, feeling like they’re being heard, like they’re being supported, and that the campus believes that we are collectively trying to have each other’s best interests at heart,” said Sutton.