Wondering How to Support Your Title IX Office? Ask HR.

January 2020

 

Most months are busy times for Title IX Coordinators. But this year, February will be a particularly busy month. The new Title IX regulations are expected to be released in February and they will undoubtedly usher in a hectic Leap Year for your school’s Title IX office. 

As in all things Title IX, the new regulations are not merely a “tick the box” compliance exercise. They may upend many of the practices your Title IX office currently follows and present new challenges in every sphere of their work: policy, process, resources, staffing, training, and administration.

We know that Title IX offices are already under a heavy burden and the word is finally out that the turnover rate for Title IX Coordinators is high. Despite this knowledge, and despite seeing Title IX turmoil at other institutions, many schools are unsure how to strategically select, hire, staff, develop, organize, and support this office. Fortunately, help might be as close as a phone call to your Director of Human Resources.

Schools should recognize that strategically strengthening and supporting the Title IX office is, fundamentally, a human resources issue. Compliance with the new regulations will be less onerous if the Title IX office is strong, supported, and well-organized -- all of which involve human resource management expertise. As managers of the Title IX office or those with ultimate responsibility for its success, school presidents and senior administrators should work with their HR departments, use the new regulations as a call to action, and take the following steps:

1.     Understand the Laws. A manager should always understand the purpose of the offices they manage. Presidents and senior administrators who manage or are ultimately responsible for the work of the Title IX office are no different. Ensure you understand Title IX, Clery Act/VAWA, and all applicable regulations. Understand Title VII, ADA, Section 504, ADEA, and corresponding state laws, particularly if your Title IX Coordinator is also your Equity Officer/Section 504 Coordinator. As daunting as this may sound, senior administrators do not need to become legal experts. Rather, ask your Title IX Coordinator and in-house or outside counsel to educate you on the key provisions of the laws and how they intersect. The new regulations are quite likely going to affect your current nondiscrimination policies and processes. Support your Title IX office by learning how. 

2.     Understand the Work. A manager should understand the work they are supervising and how to supervise it. Do not underestimate the work and responsibility level of the Title IX Coordinator. Title IX Coordinators are responsible for an exceptionally broad range of high-risk duties in furtherance of law and policy. They employ interpersonal skills in meeting with people in a time of crisis, compliance skills in developing policy, planning education, and training, and executive skills as they make critical decisions throughout the day. Work with your Title IX Coordinator to understand the various facets of their work and what a typical week looks like for them. Ask HR professionals for help in understanding how to manage, support, and develop the Title IX Coordinator.

3.     Understand the Office. A manager should ensure that the office they supervise is set up for success. Assess whether the organization of the office is the right one and if your Title IX Coordinator has the resources, expertise, and support they need. Case management, training, and prevention activities require a lot of work, and, for most schools, the new regulations will likely increase staffing (formal and voluntary) and administrative loads. Work with HR professionals knowledgeable about Title IX offices to determine if your Coordinator has the proper support, expertise, and staff.

4.     Identify Ways to Retain Title IX Staff. Managers should take stock of how they are supporting their staff for their success and retention. Work with HR professionals to consider pay, benefits, services, and wellness perks that you could offer your Title IX Coordinator and Title IX staff. Allow your Title IX Coordinator genuine “off duty” time. In any high impact role that involves working with people in distress, the employee will need to be able to recharge and refresh. Vacations should be 100% covered by another appropriately trained individual. Consider how matters and emergencies should be handled and staffed outside of working hours and during vacations and other leaves of absence.

5.     Hire the Right Way. Managers of Title IX Coordinators should be fully involved in the hiring process. Be intentional and thorough. Do not off-load this to someone else. How can you properly manage them if you didn’t take part in determining what skills are necessary for the role and which candidate had them? A Title IX Coordinator is a significant hire, and the search and hire processes should be handled in a manner consistent with any significant role. Ensure that your school’s job description and hiring process will help attract and identify applicants with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in the role. Work experience at the school in another capacity or work experience in the field of interpersonal violence is not enough: neither guarantee that the applicant possesses the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities for performing the Title IX Coordinator role in a compliant and effective manner. This role should have performance categories and competencies that are used in the job description, hiring, and management. Onboarding, development, and management plans should be in place before the person is selected.

6.     Check-in on Management Skills. All of the above presume good management and leadership skills. Presidents and administrators are just like any other manager and should not be afraid to take steps to freshen-up their leadership and management skills. Good management and leadership are not an automatic by-product of being in charge. Most of us must learn them and practice them with intentionality. There is a lot on the line with Title IX compliance, but good management and leadership make all the difference. Talk with your Director of Human Resources about finding the training, program, or coaching that is best for you.

Compliance with Title IX and the new regulations will be that much easier where presidents and senior administrators have a solid understanding not only of the Title IX office and the work of Title IX Coordinators but also how to strategically support the office and set it up for success. All of this involves good management, good leadership, and the support of HR professionals.

elizabeth@ecanninglaw.com

Providence, RI

©2020 by Elizabeth H. Canning