The University created the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX after a recommendation made in the Husch Blackwell report that detailed the University’s failings in handling Title IX cases.
Interim President Thomas Galligan appointed former Deputy Vice Provost Jane Cassidy as the Interim Vice President for Civil Rights & Title IX. Cassidy announced in an email Monday the new office would use the guidance given in the Husch Blackwell report to improve the University’s Title IX system.
“We now know with great clarity that our system to protect one another from sexual harassment and violence has failed, and we must act expeditiously to remediate the problem," the email read. “We are committed to addressing each one of the recommendations in the report, and to be inclusive and transparent in our work.”
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Cassidy held previous roles at the University, including the Roy and Margaret Gianelloni Professor of Music Education and the Senior Vice Provost.
Galligan asked Cassidy prior to the Husch Blackwell report being released if she would consider taking the position for the office he was creating, which she said did not come as a surprise to her.
“In my other position, I knew they were going to create some kind of office,” Cassidy said. “I knew this was a problem, I think this had been on the boiling point for a while.”
The Office of Civil Rights & Title IX will not only be dealing with the remodeling of the University’s current Title IX policies and procedures; it will also be handling all cases that involve any behavior deemed discriminatory.
“It’s going to consolidate all the reporting and investigative cases of sexual harassment and violence. It’s all going to do all the cases that are civil rights discrimination, ADA complaints and any type of discriminatory behavior,” Cassidy said. “Title IX is a big piece of it, and that’s the one in the limelight right now, but there are other things that are going to be here.”
While the University is unable to appoint a permanent upper administration position without conducting a search for the best suited candidate, it can place somebody in the position in an interim role. Cassidy believes the chosen candidate will be knowledgeable on the legal aspects pertaining to civil rights issues.
“I would expect the person who ends up being in this office full-time will be somebody who is a civil rights attorney, someone whose entire career has been focused on civil rights and discrimination law,” Cassidy said. “That is a lot of what goes through this office. I have been on campus for a long time and in administration for a while, so I can get things rolling, and then they can hire somebody who can be here full-time and has the legal background to do the job.”
Husch Blackwell made 18 recommendations on how the University can improve its Title IX policies in its released report, and Cassidy said she intends to follow every one of those remaining recommendations fully.
“Since the report has come out, the president and his staff have already checked a couple of those boxes off,” Cassidy said. “We are going to take care of all 18 of those recommendations. We are going to make sure we have our I’s dotted and our T’s crossed on them.”
The office does not have a permanent location on campus. The search for space on campus has already begun, and Cassidy hopes to have more information regarding the new location in the coming weeks.
“Right now, we are in the University Administration Building,” Cassidy said. “I think I found some space in the Quad, and we will be announcing that in the next two weeks and hopefully move in there within a month.”
The office currently has two staff members along with Cassidy. Cassidy hopes to increase the number of staff members to better implement the recommendations made by Husch Blackwell.
“If not by the end of the week, by Monday there will be job openings for another investigator, a case manager and an administrative assistant,” Cassidy said. “We will probably end up with a staff of between six to eight people.”
Husch Blackwell noted the current sexual assault training authored by the University is inadequate, and the reformation of those trainings have already started to take place with assistance from the nonprofit Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), according to Cassidy.
“We’re already doing it. We’ve contracted [STAR] to review all of our training,” Cassidy said. “I believe their report is due to us on June 30, which will give us time to reevaluate and, with STAR’s help, get new training that will be better for everybody.”
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Some students were angered by the University’s decision to suspend Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry for 30 days without pay and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar for 21 days without pay, and voiced that the two officials should be terminated for their involvement in covering up sexual assault allegations. Cassidy said that from now on all responsibilities regarding reporting on Title IX cases will be clear, as will the punishment for people who do not follow those guidelines.
“We are going to put in place very clear expectations about reporting lines; everyone is going to be trained in it," Cassidy said. "It is going to have clear sanctions, and what those could be, up to expulsion for a student and up to firing for a faculty or staff member. We are going to make sure people know if they don’t do what they are supposed to do, there will be a punishment.”