Brandeis is seeking new employees at the Office of Prevention Services (OPS) and Rape Crisis Center (RCC) after both Sheila McMahon, the director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention, and Julia Rickey, the Survivor Advocate and Education Specialist, left Brandeis over the summer.
With McMahon and Rickey gone, the OPS and the RCC fall under the supervision of Sheryl Sousa, the vice president for Student Affairs. “I’ve been working closely with professional and student staff to oversee the operation,” she said in a statement to The Hoot.
McMahon left the office she helped found in 2013 for a faculty position at the Barry University School of Social Work. She informed Brandeis she was leaving in mid-July while Rickey departed in August. McMahon had already left campus by that point, and did not know that Rickey was going to leave.
Rickey could not be reached for comment by press time.
Some professional staff have taken on interim positions while replacements for McMahon and Rickey are found. Carrie Robertson, who has worked in the Title IX office and in graduate admissions, is taking on an administrative role at OPS as Interim Program Manager. She is also supervising student staff at OPS, which runs the bystander education program, said Sousa. McMahon was involved in bringing on Robertson before she left.
“She [Robertson] is super organized. She’s one of those people who just gets things done,” said McMahon in a phone interview. She said the student OPS workers bring a lot of talent and creativity, but need someone whose job it is to keep them organized and on schedule.
McMahon thinks, on one hand, it is unfortunate the search for her replacement could not begin until the semester started because “you want to be able to have someone in the position when the school year starts, but the good side of that I think is that students can then have a more active role in the search committee process.”
She also hopes that having some extra time will allow the university to attract high quality candidates. McMahon knows Robertson is competent and is happy the office “wasn’t left to float along until a new director was hired.”
McMahon had been considering the possibility of a faculty position for some time, but turned down a job at Barry University when they first offered it to her. However, this spring she decided to accept a new offer so she could spend more time researching and writing—something she had been able to focus on during her doctorate program. She is now teaching three classes (one undergraduate and two graduate) and able to work on writing.
At the RCC, Trish Glover LMHC, a mental health/trauma therapist for the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) has taken on the role of clinical supervisor for the staff and advocates, according to Sousa. Aside from Rickey, the RCC has been staffed by student “peer advocates.” Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) has repeatedly called for the RCC to hire more full-time, professional staff members.
The Rape Crisis Center office remains open from 12-5 p.m., and there will still be “access to professional staff,” according to Sousa. Students can also speak with a professional counselor after hours by calling 781-736-3370.
Additionally, Elba Valerio, who served as program coordinator for the Intercultural Center, is taking on administrative responsibilities at OPS as an Interim Program Manager, Sousa said.
To supplement Glover’s work, the office will hire an Interim Survivor Advocate until a permanent one is found. This person will “be available in the RCC to meet with survivors,” according to Sousa. “We’re interviewing finalists this week and should have someone in place within the week.”
With interim staff in place, the office is searching for candidates to fill the two empty full-time positions. The Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention position (McMahon’s former role) was posted mid-summer, according to Sousa, and they will be screening candidates soon.
The Survivor Advocate and Education Specialist position has yet to be posted, but only because they want the input of the new director when hiring for Rickey’s former position. “Our plan is to fill the Director position first so as to give the new Director an opportunity to have input in the selection of the Survivor Advocate,” said Sousa. “There will be an Interim Survivor Advocate in place until the position is filled permanently. Both searches will include input from faculty, students and staff.”
Sheila McMahon helped build OPS into what it is now. Her job responsibilities included developing prevention trainings, including the “Train the Trainer” program which prepares other students to lead bystander trainings. McMahon also provided counseling for survivors and worked with administrators to steer university policy.
As a survivor advocate, Rickey offered counseling to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, for example. She also worked on campus outreach programs and helped train/supervise RCC peer advocates.
McMahon and Rickey were both confidential resources, meaning students could talk to them without deciding to file a report. During their time at Brandeis, both developed close relationships with students involved in sexual assault advocacy on campus.
McMahon was away from Brandeis from September to December 2014, on academic leave finishing her dissertation. In her absence, several employees helped fill the hole at OPS, holding office hours or serving as confidential resources. During this period, McMahon stayed in contact with staff, as the RCC and bystander program were coming together.