Title IX coordinator as a stand-alone position has been a job at Allegheny College for less than a year and two people have already held the job.
Katie Pope was hired in 2014 to be Allegheny’s first official Title IX coordinator. She started the job in September and has since accepted the same position at the University of Pittsburgh. Her last official day at Allegheny College was Aug. 21.
“Personally, I liked Katie Pope,” said Hope Sims-Medley, ’18. “I liked working with Katie and the time she was here she made a great difference with how things are handled, not making it administration-based, but making it student-based. She will be missed on this campus.”
Pope declined an interview with The Campus prior to her last day.
Following Pope’s departure, Gilly Ford, chief of staff, will serve as the college’s interim Title IX coordinator.
“It would have been hard to pass up, an amazing opportunity for her which speaks to her skills and expertise,” Ford said of Pope’s opportunity at Pitt.
This is Ford’s eighth year working at the college and she brings significant experience to the interim position.
“One of the reasons I was asked to step in as the interim is that I have lots of experience in the fields of sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Ford. “Prior to coming to Allegheny, I worked at Women’s Services, which is a nonprofit organization here in Meadville that provides services to victims of sexual assault and violence, for 15 years. And I was the executive director for 10.”
Ford is confident in her ability to perform well in her role as interim coordinator because of the experience she has had both studying and working with the issues of sexual assault.
“I’m excited about it. For me, it feels like coming home in a lot of ways because it brings me back to the work I did for so long. I have a passion for it and I really want to be a part of ensuring we have a safe community here…That’s where my passion comes from, just wanting to help people in the best way I can,” said Ford.
Prior to starting as interim coordinator, Ford and Pope met regularly to help with the transition into the position.
“I spent several weeks with Katie…I think we had a good two to three weeks where we spent everyday together,” said Ford. “I shadowed her work. I had the opportunity to just watch and learn and hear what she does on a daily basis. And of course she spent time with me going over policy procedure, all of the kind of nuts and bolts of the role.”
While some have voiced concern about the turnover of the Title IX position, Sue Stuebner, executive vice president and chief operating officer, explained that Title IX is a priority for the college.
“One of the things that’s important for all of us to remember is others will be able to do really good work too, and the institutional commitment to this work remains high,” said Stuebner. “We might have a new set of leaders on this issue but our commitment and momentum will still be going forward.”
Currently, the Title IX coordinator position has not been advertised by the college.
“Gilly is well qualified to be interim, and not knowing what Gilly’s preferences are or availability, I couldn’t speak to her future in that position, but I would just underline that she’s well qualified to do it in the interim,” said Jacquie Kondrot, interim dean of students.
According to a community-wide email sent on Aug. 13 by Stuebner, “The College plans to launch a national search for a full-time Title IX Coordinator.” Stuebner also wrote that she will provide updates as the college proceeds with the search.
“In terms of the search, we are going to take a couple weeks here to really sort out how we want to go forward,” said Stuebner. “I’ve been in contact with search firms to ask for advice and help on what’s the best way to do this search…We were lucky to get Katie who had great skills, but the number of qualified candidates was relatively small and talking with folks, that number’s even smaller now because of the number of institutions hiring this position have radically increased.”
The college is prioritizing the search for a Title IX coordinator, according to Stuebner.
“I can’t give you a specific answer about the search yet because I really want to make sure when we post and go forward that it will lead to a successful outcome,” said Stuebner. “It’s obviously a very high priority for us…We are very much committed to having a Title IX coordinator. I just want to make sure when we enter into the search we do so in a way that’s informed, that will best serve Allegheny and will be successful.”
Stuebner mentioned that one of the challenges with beginning the search for a Title IX coordinator is a limited pool of candidates. More institutions nationwide along with Allegheny are looking to have a full-time person in the position.
“The number of qualified candidates out there isn’t as plentiful as the number of schools looking for someone,” said Stuebner. “Whether we go inside or out [for the search], I want to make sure that the needs of our students are served.”
Title IX and sexual assault have become common topics of conversation across college campuses nationwide.
“It shouldn’t be necessary [to have the Title IX position],” said Sims-Medley. “We shouldn’t have to have somebody to watch over and make sure cases are handled correctly, but unfortunately it is necessary because…of the society and culture we live in.”
For more information on Title IX and how to report sexual assault or harassment, visit sites.allegheny.edu/titleix/.