Ellen Lassiter Collier fully acknowledges that not everyone on campus knows who holds the title of the Director for Gender Equity on campus or what that person does, but she is doing her best to change this. Lassiter Collier, who took the position in late November, has plans for progress in addition to her daily responsibilities surrounding Title IX.
Contrary to popular belief, Title IX does not simply address gender equality in athletics, but in every educational program and activity of institutions that receive federal funding. This includes equal access to vocational training and the STEM fields as well as legal protections against sexual harassment and assault. Therefore K is required to employ an individual who is responsible for evaluating and enforcing Title IX policies as well as processing reports of violation.
For Lassiter Collier, this role translates to a lot of reading, since Title IX regulations are often annually being added or reformed to the point that they at times conflict with one another, or perhaps overlap in some areas and not others. In addition, they must continue to be compliant with the federal Clery and Violence Against Women Acts.
Another current task associated with her job, as her open house-style event in Bissell Theater last Thursday showed, is “basically to be able to introduce myself to the campus,” she said.
As a brand new face at K, Lassiter Collier has had the added responsibility of getting to know the different departments and offices on campus. She says she has also begun the process of meeting with student organizations and attending various campus-wide events, but given the busy schedules of all parties involved, this has and will be a process.
In addition to a series of events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, Lassiter Collier is bringing Greendot, a bystander intervention program, to campus. It is one of the only programs recognized federally as delivering results, and after receiving a grant of almost $19,000, she says that this will be used to train 40 faculty and staff members as well as 40 students to be more responsible bystanders.
One of the greatest demands placed on her at the moment she took the position has been to be a voice of reassurance for the campus community. As the Director of Gender Equity, seeing potential threats to Title IX following the presidential election has been unnerving. “It has been really scary for me to read predictions and rumors, basically, that come out of Washington D.C.,” she said.
Lassiter Collier explained that luckily there is still federal legislation requiring the college to uphold certain standards that cannot easily be undone. However she cited conversations she has had with President Gonzalez regarding potential threats to Title IX. Emphasizing K’s commitment to protecting the rights of students, she said “no matter what happens with the legislation, we will continue like nothing has changed.”