UWRF officials consider need for independent Title IX coordinator

Posted November 2, 2016

To avoid a potential conflict of interest, officials at the UW-River Falls are considering the creation of an independent Title IX coordinator.

Passed in 1972, Title IX is a section of the U.S. Education Amendments that provides standards for sexual equality in private and public educational institutions. The law also addresses issues of sexual harassment and violence in educational environments.

Title IX policy implementation is one of many responsibilities of Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman. When a complaint is filed, Heinselman must review the case to determine if a Title IX investigation is required. He must also decide if the complaint warrants a legal or student code violation investigation.

“It’s very timely and you have to be very responsive by the law,” Heinselman said. “If we don’t respond to a Title IX incident at that level, then it could rise to an (Office of Civil Rights) violation because OCR kind of oversees Title IX.”

The UWRF Student Senate last month proposed creation of an independent Title IX coordinator to oversee the policy as well as any investigations. UWRF Student Body President Christopher Morgan said the current resources set forth by the university lack the ability to adjudicate Title IX policies. Morgan said Heinselman’s involvement with Title IX slows down the process and creates a conflict of interest. Morgan said a “Dear Colleague Letter” released by the U.S. Department of Education addressing Title IX and sexual assault makes UWRF’s issues clear.

“When Gregg is the Title IX coordinator, we’re self-regulating ourselves,” said Morgan. “We need someone on the outside looking in saying, ‘Actually no, here’s the law, here’s what you should be doing.'”

Heinselman agreed that his involvement is a conflict of interest and believes it could create an issue for the university.

“I’m a member of the cabinet. I also report to the chancellor. I have a one-year contract so I serve at the service of the chancellor,” said Heinselman. “If I was to investigate a Title IX case and find that the university wasn’t following practices and procedures or managing the case the way it should, one could argue do I have independence in the process?”

The coordinator also would be in charge of implementing the policies of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Morgan said students with disabilities lack someone they can go to when they need help.

“When they ask about who here at the university is officially charged with complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act — a huge, important piece of legislation from the federal government –who here does that, our own Ability Services comes back and says we have no one,” said Morgan.

Morgan said the creation of the position is still in the preliminary stages and lots of questions still need to be answered. On Oct. 27, Morgan met with Chancellor Dean Van Galen to discuss details, including how the position would be paid for, if the university would hire someone from within the university and the exact responsibilities of the job. Despite a difficult financial situation, Morgan said the university’s administration must pledge its support to make the position a reality.

“It’s working with the chancellor to find a way to accomplish what we want to accomplish while also keeping an eye on the budget,” said Morgan.

Morgan anticipates the process to take some time and will require student action.