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OPS, Title IX search for senior position replacements

By Hannah Schuster and Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

October 27, 2017

The position of Title IX Investigator and Compliance Officer is vacant following the recent departure of Rebecca Tillar. The search to fill this post, the senior investigator position in that office, has just begun, and the searches for two other permanent hires in sexual assault services are ongoing.

Brandeis is seeking to replace Sheila McMahon, who left her position as Director of Sexual Assault and Prevention Services in mid-July and Julia Rickey, the Survivor Advocate, who left in late summer.

The Title IX position was posted this week on an employment website and will be up for about one month, according to Sousa. They aim to have someone in the position by early next semester.

Tillar’s main role at Brandeis involved investigating sexual misconduct claims under Title IX. Those investigations will continue as normal in her absence, said Sheryl Sousa ’90, Vice President of Student Affairs. Paula Slowe is another case manager in the office and will reach out to students who file a report to begin an investigation into alleged misconduct.

There are two types of investigations, Sousa said, the Special Examiners Process (SEP) and the informal investigation. Special Examiners are outside investigators, selected from a pool of pre-screened attorneys. There is a “co-examiner” who is a member of the Brandeis community and the case manager generally fills this role. With one fewer staff member, there are others who can take on this job. Several employees on campus have the requisite training to fill this role, including Sousa, employees from the Dean of Students Office and Kerry Guerard, the Director of Student Rights and Community Standards.

The informal process also requires a trained staff member, a role the Lead Investigator typically fills. Other staff members can conduct informal investigations in the interim. The university is also hiring an interim investigator who could assist with either of these processes. “We should probably have that settled within the next week or so,” Sousa said.

A search committee is narrowing the list of candidates for the Director of Sexual Assault and Prevention Services, the head of the Office of Prevention Services. The committee, comprised of faculty, staff and students, is primarily pulled from the Task Force for Sexual Assault Response, Services and Prevention. Members conducted a round of video interviews within the last week, according to Sousa.

The committee is expected to select finalists by early to mid November, according to Sousa. They will invite the finalists to campus for two public questions and answer sessions. Sousa said there will likely be a session for faculty and staff and a session for students.

The Survivor Advocate and Education specialist position has also been vacant since the summer. The hiring process for the Survivor Advocate will be staggered with the Director because the Director oversees the Advocate position. “Our thinking all along has been it would be [the] best case scenario for the director-to-be, new director, to weigh in on that search process,” said Sousa. The position has been posted on the Brandeis employment site and the search committee will begin narrowing down the candidates soon, according to Sousa.

The university aims to have a new director and a new Survivor Advocate in place at the start of the spring semester. The university listed both positions over the summer, but review began this fall. “Positions like these we very much want student input so…it was better for the overall search for that one to wait until we had started back up with school so that we could have everyone actively engaged,” said Sousa.

During the transition period, Sousa emphasized, “All services are still available…There isn’t a disruption in services.”

The Office of Prevention Services and Rape Crisis Center (RCC) have been operating with student workers and part-time interim staff taking the lead since late summer. The RCC is open 12 to 5 p.m. on weekdays and staffed by peer advocates and two part-time interim survivor advocates, who Sousa called “incredibly well trained and experienced.”

Trish Glover, who is also a trauma specialist at the Brandeis Counseling Center, is at the RCC Mondays and Thursdays. Purnima Sahgal, who also works as a trauma specialist at South Shore Mental Health, according to LinkedIn, is there on Tuesdays and Fridays. Glover and Sahgal are also staffing the after-hours RCC hotline. They follow a rotation and someone is available at all times. Glover is also provided “clinical supervision” to the RCC peer advocates. If students need guidance or have a question about something that’s been disclosed to them, they can turn to Glover, Sousa explained.

“[Glover] is…making sure that…the operation is being managed in an appropriate way,” said Sousa.

Carrie Robertson is working part-time as Interim Program Manager of OPS. She has worked in the Title IX office and in graduate admissions. She is supervising the student staff and overseeing the bystander education program. She meets with the students for twice-weekly staff meetings. Paul Sindberg ’18, the Coordinator of Community Engagement, said Robertson has been a great resource for the student staff.

Sousa said the student staff at the RCC and OPS are “incredibly dedicated to those roles…They have been doing a lot of the…day-to-day work,” she said.

Student staff are doing work to maintain bystander training and engage with the community, Sindberg agreed. This gives them a “direct ability” to shape the office. “We are looking forward to have a director to rely on and support us.”

He said there are some projects that have been “put on the back burner,” as the office transitions, including work on developing a new bystander training curriculum devoted to recognizing the signs of intimate partner violence and educational campaigns.

Sindberg said his outlook is that he is “[excited] for the opportunities that reemerge when we hire a director.”

Tillar left Brandeis for personal reasons, her partner having taken a job in another city, according to multiple people familiar with the decision. McMahon left the office she helped found in mid-July for a professorship at the Barry University School of Social Work, she said in a phone interview in early September. McMahon had been exploring faculty opportunities which would allow her to spend more time on research and writing. Julia Rickey, the survivor advocate, departed several weeks later, and McMahon said she did not know Rickey was going to leave.

Rickey has a clinical background and was interested in doing more long-term counseling, according to Sousa, McMahon and several others familiar with her decision. The Survivor Advocate position mostly involved one-time counseling.

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