HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi has announced the hire of a deputy coordinator to its Title IX office.
The university said in a press release that the hire is part of an on-going effort to provide and maintain a safe and inclusive living and working environment free from all forms of sexual misconduct across all University campuses and research sites.
Joining the Title IX Office as deputy coordinator is Dr. Lenore Schaffer, a recent graduate of Southern Miss, earning her doctorate in higher education administration with a minor in student affairs in May 2017. Prior to stepping into her new role, Schaffer also served the Title IX Office as a graduate assistant during the 2016-17 academic year and an intern during 2015-16.
According to Dr. Rebecca Malley, Title IX coordinator, the deputy coordinator position enables the University to greatly expand and increase services offered to the entire university community, particularly adding a regular presence to the University's coastal sites.
In her new role, Schaffer will assist in coordinating the University's efforts to comply with and carry out responsibilities under Title IX and provide support to students, faculty and staff located on the University's Hattiesburg campus, as well as the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and other teaching sites along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to the release.
Schaffer will also support individuals who feel they have been treated differently based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy and parenting status and will assist the Title IX coordinator with overseeing the University's Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Policy, which prohibits any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force. Sexual misconduct includes behaviors such as relationship violence, sexual exploitation, cyberstalking, unwanted touching and pressure from a superior to engage in unwanted sexual behavior.
"Dr. Schaffer has already fared well in her new role as she possesses excellent communication skills, is a creative thinker, and has a talent for presenting in front of campus groups," said Malley in an issued news release. "In addition to programmatic outreach to persons and groups, she is able to work closely with our graduate assistants, so that they can assist in outreach, while learning what is involved with the implementation of a sexual misconduct policy."
According to the release, the University's coastal sites, a Title IX representative is now available to consult with students and employees every Monday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Hardy Hall 332 on the Gulf Park campus. This regular presence will create convenience for consultation with the Title IX Office, provide programming opportunities on a more regular basis, and potentially decrease the time needed to adjudicate a complaint.
In 1972, Title IX was established with the purpose of removing all barriers based on sex for students attending schools (K-12 and higher education) that receive financial assistance from the federal government. Acknowledging the significant expansion of Title IX's scope by the U.S. government's Office of Civil Rights, Southern Miss created a separate Title IX Office in 2015.
Today, the Title IX Office partners with several University entities to create and maintain a learning and working environment free from sex or gender-based discrimination. Those include: the University Police Department, the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention, Human Resources, and Student Counseling Services.
The University also has a trained team of 15 investigators, consisting of faculty and staff, who are empaneled in groups of three to hear and adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct. Initial training for team members was conducted by the Association of Title IX Administrators, a professional organization hailed as one of the country's leading authorities on Title IX issues.
"I'm really excited about this new role and what it means for the University," said Schaffer. "I look forward to meeting with various student groups and partnering with other departments/organizations on campus. Collaboration is essential in this field."
To learn more about the Title IX Office at Southern Miss, including related policies and procedures, call 601.266.4466 or visit www.usm.edu/sexual-misconduct.