Emerson College recently welcomed two new staff members to campus: Associate Vice President and Title IX and Clery Act Coordinator Pamela White and Title IX Investigator Pamela Ring. This is the first time the College has dedicated a full-time staff to Title IX and Clery Act matters on campus.
Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex, which, according to White, has evolved to include matters of gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. The Clery Act requires government-funded colleges and universities to report criminal incidents as part of an effort to make campuses safer spaces for all students. These protections also extend to College employees.
Emerson College Today sat down with White to discuss the new office, her role in the Emerson community, and her goals. She comes to Emerson with a background in civil rights work starting in the 1980s, from higher education to the private sector, and then returned to college campuses after graduating from law school. She brings a lifelong passion for protecting civil rights of every person—whether that is on the basis of race, religion, or sex—to Emerson.
Q: What exactly does your position entail?
A: My responsibility is to have oversight for all of the things [sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, dating and domestic violence, stalking] that could trigger any area of the Title IX responsibility.
Part of my responsibility is to make sure that the institution does what it is supposed to do to be in compliance with federal law. We are required to provide, for example, a trauma-informed response as part of our compliance responsibility. Emerson wants to go beyond what’s federally mandated.
Part of my responsibility is to also make sure that we conduct training. Our employees have to be trained; our students have to be trained. Not that all the training has to come out of my office, but we want to make sure that the institution is doing everything that we need to do in a coordinated effort to get the training done.
Also, making sure that we assess the climate of the institution periodically. I can then determine whether there is messaging we need to get across or some structural things that maybe the institution needs to change. But I need to be able to assess that on behalf of the institution.
Q: What should students come to your office for, and what services do you provide?
A: Typically, students who come to our office are coming [in] because something may have happened, and they may not know right away whether or not it’s something that violates Title IX. So sometimes they just come to talk, and we can share information with them about the resources that the institution provides such as Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services and Violence Prevention and Response.
Sometimes they will come and talk to us because they know something has happened that violates Title IX and they want to file a complaint. My responsibility is to assess, based on what that person is telling me, whether or not it is something that would require an investigation.
Sometimes, a student comes to us because they want us to know that something has happened, but they don’t want to file a complaint….We want to be able to provide that student with resource information and make sure that they’re connected, if that’s necessary. But we certainly don’t want to force a student to be part of an investigation if that’s not what they want. That said, sometimes I have to assess whether the person who’s the “bad actor” is someone who may be a continuing threat to the Emerson community. However, a student or employee is never required to participate in the investigation.
Q: What happens when a student reports an incident to you?
A: One of the first things we want to do is to engage with them, let them know what their rights are under Title IX and our policy, share information about resources, and give them an understanding of what’s going to happen if they decide they want to move forward with an investigation.
We have a responsibility to implement interim measures. That may include things like a no contact order, a stay away directive, or if the individuals live in the same residence hall we can move a respondent to another one. All of these things need to be assessed, and the institution is only required to do what is reasonable and appropriate. But that is certainly something we would want to be able to assess and do if it’s necessary.
My office is not a confidential resource. That said, we want to make every attempt to keep information as private as possible. One of my responsibilities is to make sure that both parties are treated in an equitable manner, that we’re fair, that our process is fair to all parties involved. We only share information with those who have a legitimate reason to know.
Q: What’s the goal of your office?
A: The vision is to have a violence-free campus. To get there, we’ll need to take a look at some potential cultural changes and continue providing a strategic approach to campus-wide training at both the main campus, ELA, and Kasteel Well. We want to continue building upon the current Title IX infrastructure and on the efforts that Emerson has already made to get the community’s support of our Title IX process.
Q: Is there anything else you want Emerson students to know about your office or role?
A: When we talk about Title IX and the Office for Civil Rights expectation as far as what’s covered under Title IX, I want to make it clear that Title IX—that discrimination based on sex—is inclusive of the LGBTQ community. If a person is targeted because of their sexual orientation, if a person is targeted because of their gender identity or gender expression, we want the LGBTQ community to know that our office is going to be responsive to them as well.
White and Ring’s offices are located on the second floor of the State Transportation Building, located at 8 Park Plaza and accessible through Boylston Place.