MU begins search for new Civil Rights official

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COLUMBIA- The MU community made its voice heard Wednesday, laying out the characteristics, qualities and experiences it's looking for in a new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights, Title IX and ADA.

The search committee for the position, comprised of 16 people representing several groups on campus, held an open forum to seek input from all university stakeholders, including administrators, professors and students.

"This is a position that works with faculty, staff and students, which is unique in some administrator roles," said Emily Love, Title IX coordinator. "This person plays a huge role in prevention, education, and ultimately remedying the effects of any form of discrimination, sexual misconduct."

Love and Tina Bloom, associate professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing, are co-chairing the committee, and wanted to make sure whomever they hire fits the criteria set by the MU community.

"It's a position that's really important to a lot of people on campus," said Bloom.

The committee broke the forum down into the three main areas that will determine the new administrator: demonstrated experience, leadership characteristics and desired qualities.

Members of the audience had plenty to say on each topic.

Demonstrated Experience

"This person needs to have an understanding and experience working with transgender, gender-queer and nonconforming populations," said Sean Olmstead, LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator.

Olmstead also said 18 percent of those students come to college expecting discrimination, which makes the incoming coordinator's experience even more crucial.

"It cannot be overstated that this individual has to have done work not only on the Title IX but on the civil rights side. They have to be willing to challenge an institution where we don't always feel comfortable looking at our own biases," said Liz Zufall, executive assistant for the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX. "I think it would be difficult for someone from within this institution to do that."

Ryan Gavin, strategic communications manager for the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, said it's important to find somebody who understands the new digital landscape that students participate in.

"With the more time that people spend online and using social media, that a lot of these things that might have taken place traditionally in a classroom setting or a one on one situation, now happen online," Gavin said.

"I would like to see someone who has a strong sense of intersectionality. How students within marginalized communities may be experiencing further marginalization within those communities," said Sterling Waldman, an undergraduate student at MU.

Leadership Characteristics

"You need someone who is unbossed and unbought. Someone who can do what's fair and what's just. Even when her or his reputation may be on the line in terms of people liking them," said Rhodesia McMillian, associate director for K-12 Access, Programming and Engagement. "I'd rather him or her say no to a dean because it's fair and it's just, than to say yes just to be embraced."

Frankie Minor, a former MU employee, said he wants to see someone with a strong sense of advocacy.

"I think what this person needs is not somebody who's just going to respond to issues or concerns brought to them, but raise this discussion on the campus with the people that they need to do that," Minor said. "This person has to be critically involved with the rapidly changing environment and willing to advocate and educate the campus and campus leaders."

Desired Qualities

Alejandra Gudino, an Inclusion and Diversity Educator, said she needs someone in the position who can foster new traditions and is easy to collaborate with.

"Higher education is all about traditions. Look what's about to happen this weekend, and look who's not. It's a lot of people who's not there, and there's a reason. There's fear, there's a lot of students who don't want to walk in the parade, there's a lot of staff that doesn't feel they're welcome. That needs to change," Gudino said.

The committee will meet for the first time Wednesday evening to discuss opinions gathered at the forum.

It plans to have someone hired for the position by March 2018, with another open forum and stakeholder interviews on the schedule once it selects a pool of finalists.