Title IX Job Deserves Full Attention

The Title IX coordinator and deputy coordinator of California Lutheran University need more support through additional deputies and the designation of a full-time coordinator. Currently, Jim McHugh serves as associate vice president for athletic affairs as well as the head Title IX Coordinator. Compared to several other regional universities, Cal Lutheran’s Title IX department is behind the curve in terms of scope of staff and outreach.

In The “Dear Colleague Letter on Title IX Coordinators” by Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for Civil Rights, outlines the ways that Title IX coordinators can be supported at their respective institutions.

“When designating a Title IX coordinator, a recipient should be careful to avoid designating an employee whose other job responsibilities may create a conflict of interest,” Lhamon said. “For example, designating a disciplinary board member, general counsel, dean of students, superintendent, principal, or athletics director as the Title IX coordinator may pose a conflict of interest.”

McHugh serving as both the associate vice president for athletic affairs as well as Title IX coordinator imposes a  conflict of interest and it calls to question his ability to devote full attention to each case.

Christine Guzman serves as the Title IX coordinator for Azusa Pacific University (APU). She is the first full-time coordinator for the university.

“Having this as a full-time position for us has been really helpful because I’ve been able to implement further development of policies and bystander education and caring for our community in the way that we want to that reflects our values,” Guzman said.

In addition to Guzman, APU also has six deputy Title IX coordinators that  work with her as a committee to advise on policy shifts and serve as checks and balances for the office of Title IX.

“Maintenance of a strong and visible role in the community helps to ensure that members of the school community know and trust that they can reach out to the Title IX coordinator for assistance,” Lhamon said.

How can our Title IX coordinator maintain visibility in the community if he himself is not even serving his position full time? It is difficult to expect McHugh to be as invested and committed to his position if he also serves as the associate vice president for athletic affairs. This is not to disparage the job currently being done, but rather to say that we should ask the university to value the Title IX coordinator position by designating it a full-time position.

In the article “How to Encourage More College Sexual Assault Victims to Speak Up” by Caroline Kitchener published in the Atlantic, she said that universities can become overwhelmed with handling Title IX cases.

“It’s no surprise that colleges have had so much trouble deciding how to deal with cases of sexual assault. It’s complicated and can quickly become a long, drawn-out fight,” Kitchener said.

We cannot expect the Title IX coordinator, even with the help of  newly designated Deputy Title IX Coordinator Chris Paul, to be sufficient to handle all that Title IX encompasses with both of them serving in other positions in the university. Paul is assistant dean of students and director of Residence Life and Student Conduct as well.

For comparison, other small private universities have larger Title IX teams, such as Pacific Lutheran University which has a head Title IX coordinator as well as an eight-person Title IX working team, according to the university website.

As Cal Lutheran continues to grow, university leadership needs to reconsider where its values lie, and hire additional positions to ensure the safety of the students and the effectiveness of the Title IX office. It is not enough to simply give Paul a title for a position she was already unofficially performing and call it good.

Two people who have other positions that demand their time and attention at this university cannot possibly cover all that the Title IX position requires, and we should not expect them to.

Nicki Schedler