Ever since former Title IX Program Officer Rene Davis left in June to become assistant head of an independent K-12 school, Jeana Horton has been serving as both Interim Title IX Program Officer and Institutional Equity Investigator.
The search for Title IX Coordinator is currently underway and is “moving into the interview phase,” Sylvia Carey-Butler, vice president for institutional equity and diversity, wrote in an email to The Herald.
A search committee “composed of key stakeholders from our Brown community” will begin conducting interviews of qualified applicants in November and December, Carey-Butler wrote. Interviews will be conducted both over Zoom and in-person on campus. “We have been fortunate to receive such qualified applicants and look forward to beginning interviews in the coming weeks,” Butler added.
While the timeline for filling the position is not finalized because it is based on “personnel availability, applicant availability and, of course, our University holiday schedule,” Carey-Butler wrote, “we anticipate having someone in the position by January.”
Until the role is permanently filled, Norton will continue “to oversee compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, to educate the campus community and to implement University policies and procedures,” Norton wrote in an email to The Herald.
The selected individual will take over this position and its responsibilities as the Title IX Coordinator — a change in title from what was formerly known as Title IX Program Officer. The University implemented this change “based on market evaluation and in keeping with other institutions of higher education,” Carey-Butler wrote.
In choosing a Title IX Officer, there are several factors and experiences that should be considered, according to Carey-Butler.
“There are certain traits that make a person in this position exceptional,” Carey-Butler wrote. “These include: patience, compassion, commitment to excellence, a thought partner and someone who is dedicated to this body of work.”
Student activists would like to see a candidate who has experience working with survivors of sexual assault.
“I would love to see a Title IX Office that had people who have worked in survivor advocacy or worked in the mental health profession” beyond the context of a college administration, said Amelia Wyckoff ’22, an End Sexual Violence at Brown organizer. “It seems like a cool opportunity for people to have multiple areas of expertise when it comes to survivor advocacy.”
But according to Wyckoff, it doesn’t matter how experienced the new Title IX Coordinator is if the University doesn’t make fundamental structural changes.
“The biggest problem with the Title IX Office will continue regardless of who is the next person to take part in the office,” Wyckoff said. “The University is not treating this issue with the scale that it needs to be treated.”
Based on the amount of the student body that is harmed each year, “ the Title IX Office should be the biggest office on campus,” they added.
In the 2019-2020 school year, reports of sexual misconduct rose to 109 allegations from the preceding year’s 104, The Herald previously reported. But this collected data might only represent a portion of total instances of sexual assault at Brown, according to informal data collected through the Voices at Brown Instagram account, the account’s former moderators Amanda Cooper ’22 and Carter Woodruff ’21.5 previously told The Herald.
“Even (for) the people in the administration who clearly ... want to make a difference, it’s really hard for them to do so because of the structural issues,” Wyckoff added.
While ESV hasn’t met with the Title IX Office since Rene Davis’s departure because of other focuses, the coalition “outlined a number of things (it) wanted (the office) to latch onto,” Wyckoff said.
Personally, Wyckoff would like to see the office explore transformative justice and greater inclusion of student voices through campus wide focus groups, student coalitions and surveys, they added.
“I know other administrative offices include student workers in interviews” of job candidates, Wyckoff said. “I don’t know why they can’t do that for the Title IX Office.”
While students are not involved during the official interview process, there will be an opportunity for students to provide input near the end of the search, University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.
“Students and other members of the Brown community will have the opportunity during the finalist stage of the search process to meet candidates, ask questions and share their perspectives,” Clark wrote. “Each candidate will come ... and participate in an open forum on campus, among other meetings and interviews.”
For Carey-Butler, “ensuring that the new Title IX Coordinator becomes acquainted with the Brown community will be one of our priorities,” she wrote.
As for changes to the office, “we will also enhance education/prevention on campus,” Carey-Butler wrote. “We will have more initiatives to share once (the new Title IX Coordinator) is in place.”