Title IX Office appoints Professor Spain to deputy coordinator position, plans campus climate survey

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Chemistry professor Eileen Spain joined the Title IX Office as its third deputy title IX coordinator, according to an email sent Jan. 21 from Dean of Students Barbara Avery. The personnel change precedes a series of projects Head Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones hopes to complete with the help of the deputy coordinators, including an assessment of how her staff is supporting both students and faculty.

Spain became part of a team consisting of Interim Director of Human Resources Jacalyn Feigelman and head softball coach Alison Haehnel. The deputy coordinator positions were recommended in the policy assessments of both Pepper Hamilton LLP and Occidental’s own Sexual Misconduct Advisory Review Board.

The responsibilities of the deputy coordinators include assisting with special projects in the Title IX Office as they come up, according to Jones. In particular, Spain will provide input from a faculty perspective.

A large part of the position includes having up-to-date knowledge of the Clery Act and Title IX policies, which requires universities to report crimes on or near campus, according to Jones. This necessitated extensive training and time commitment.

“[The deputy coordinators] each bring an important perspective to the team,” Jones said. “They each work very hard and have made a real commitment to helping us move forward.”

Spain, too, is optimistic about her new responsibilities.

“I feel hopeful, and I look forward to assisting the Title IX Office in its critical work on our campus,” she said via email.

The Title IX Office will also be moving forward Feb. 16 with a sexual assault climate survey, intended to gather information about sexual assault on campus as well as students’ perceptions of the college’s response. The information will not be used to investigate individual cases, but to evaluate current policy, Jones said. The online survey will also be anonymous, and students have the option to not answer certain questions.

The results will be cross-referenced with other schools’ data, Survivor Advocate and Project S.A.F.E. Coordinator Naddia Palacios said. She spoke highly of the survey, lauding both the questions that the Title IX Office sent to her as well as the confidential process.

“We’re really thankful for it,” Palacios said. “It can really help us with prevention and targeting services for survivors.”

Spain’s appointment and the climate survey come at a time when Occidental’s sexual assault policies have come under fire from the press, most recently in Los Angeles Magazine’s February issue. While author Mona Gable reported that significant improvements had been made, the article identifies major gaps in Occidental’s policies that still remain problematic.

“At Oxy a student found responsible for rape or sexual assault does face suspension or possible expulsion; however, the policy still doesn’t make clear how punishments are decided,” Gable wrote. “But Jones’s hardest job may be restoring confidence in the reporting process.”

Jones emphasized that Spain’s appointment is not a reaction to media criticism, as talks to fill the position started in the summer.

“The media and other people will make assessments,” she said. “My job is to move us forward.”

President Jonathan Veitch also did not discuss the article, and focused on actions the administration had recently taken.

“Evaluating the effectiveness of our efforts is an ongoing process,” Veitch said via email. “We will continue to look at how we can better meet our commitment to making the Occidental College campus safe for all of our students.”