Educational Equity Coordinator hired, will handle discrimination cases beyond Title IX

Spring break will fall on a Tuesday and Wednesday in late March to dissuade students from traveling off-campus.

Lafayette’s first Educational Equity Coordinator Jessica Brown will bring a unique perspective to her role when she arrives on Nov. 20. She has worked extensively in law and public service dealing with discrimination cases and helping “underrepresented individuals gain access to the legal system,” but has never worked at a college before, she wrote in an email.

The search for the Educational Equity Coordinator began after Title IX Coordinator Amy O’Neill left the college over the summer. Brown will work with Dean of Equity and Inclusion Chris Hunt to cover all cases of discrimination that previously were not directed to the Title IX Coordinator, Hunt said.

“This new position expands on the role of the Title IX Coordinator, which focused on discrimination based on sex, by including other forms of prohibited discrimination such as discrimination based on race, color, national origin or disability,” he said.

Brown wrote in an email that her academic experience at the Penn State University Dickinson School of Law provided her with extensive legal background in civil rights and public interest work.

“I was a member of Penn State Law’s Civil Rights Appellate Clinic where I worked on employment discrimination cases involving Title VII and the ADA,” Brown wrote in an email. “I also interned with North Penn Legal Services and the Community Justice Project.”

The college was looking for a candidate who was engaging and could demonstrate a strong work ethic and a commitment to improving the culture and understating of Title IV and other policies and laws regarding discrimination, Hunt said. 

“Jessica fit that profile, and we are really happy to have her,” he added.

As the new Educational Equity Coordinator, Brown is responsible for handling reports of discrimination and sexual misconduct, as well as finding ways to empower victims of sexual violence to come forward.

“I think some of the challenges involved in increasing reporting are being aware of the various factors that lead students not to report sexual misconduct,” Brown wrote. “I hope that by partnering with student organizations and groups on campus, we can spread awareness regarding the problems created by under-reporting and ways to combat these issues.”

With this goal in mind, Brown attended Pards Against Sexual Assault’s first Take Back the Night, an event meant to challenge the culture which silences sexual assault survivors on campus.

“I thought the students did an amazing job organizing the event. It was exciting to see such a high level of participation from the campus community,” Brown wrote.

Taking on this new position, Brown plans to work with student groups to facilitate equal educational opportunities.

“As Lafayette diversifies, I hope to contribute to creating an inclusive environment and ensuring everyone has equal access to educational opportunities on campus,” Brown wrote.

President Alison Byerly also noted the importance of Brown’s role, especially as the college continues to grow in composition and size.

“As a community we need to be constantly not just keeping current on how these issues evolve but also just constantly reaffirming for ourselves what our values are and what we want our community to understand,” Byerly said.

Hunt’s first advice for Brown, he said, is to establish herself on campus and make connections with the community.

“Going to small group meetings, having one-on-ones with students and eating with faculty and staff will be key for her in terms of building the partnerships that she is going to need to best do her work,” Hunt said.

Before her departure, O’Neill met with Byerly to discuss what the college had been working on in regards to particular policy and educational programming issues, Byerly said.

“I think she saw it as an opportunity to give me an update on where things stood and what she hoped the next person in the role would be paying attention to,” Byerly said.

Brown is open to input from students and faculty and looks forward to getting involved with the college.

“I welcome the opportunity to meet with student, faculty, and staff members to discuss ways to build a more inclusive, discrimination-free environment on campus,” Brown wrote.

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