The Maneater

Office for Civil Rights & Title IX hosts open forum to find assistant vice chancellor

MU students, staff and faculty provided the search committee with feedback on the qualities they would like the assistant vice chancellor to exhibit.

The search committee for a permanent assistant vice chancellor for MU’s Office for Civil Rights & Title IX held an all-campus open forum on Oct. 18 in the Reynolds Alumni Center.

Students, faculty and staff provided feedback on the qualities and characteristics they want the person selected for the role to reflect. The forum was hosted eight days after the Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity announced that it would be conducting a national search for candidates for the role.

The committee itself consists of a variety of university stakeholders, including leaders and representatives from the MU Disability Center, the MU Police Department and the Missouri Students Association, to name a few.

After former Assistant Vice Chancellor Ellen Eardley announced she was resigning this past July, Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Vice Chancellor Kevin McDonald announced on Aug. 31 that Andrea Hayes would serve as interim vice chancellor, effective Sept. 1.

After consulting with Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, McDonald announced on Oct. 10 that the national search for that replacement was officially underway. To help carry out the search, McDonald recruited members of the university community to form a search committee that would work alongside MU Human Resource Services and the UM System Office of Human Resources.

According to McDonald’s announcement on Oct. 10, the committee aims to seek input from various MU stakeholders by hosting multiple listening sessions. The forum on Oct. 18 was the first of these sessions.

The forum was led by committee co-chairs Tina Bloom, associate professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing, and Emily Love, program consultant and Title IX coordinator in the UM System Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

To guide the discussion, Bloom and Love presented PowerPoint slides at different points during the forum. These slides included examples for three different prompts: demonstrated experience, leadership characteristics and desired qualities of a prospective candidate.

Attendees were encouraged to share their thoughts on the examples listed on the slides and any others they could think of.

Representatives from several on-campus organizations cited expertise in handling conflicts concerning various marginalized groups as an integral quality of a potential candidate. Understanding equity and Title IX-related issues that went beyond the policy was another concern raised during this discussion.

In addition, many of the representatives echoed each other's desire for a prospective candidate to have transparency when it comes to addressing issues and reflecting the school’s mission statement when working to solve them.

“Pressing the larger institution to build more transparency is very important,” said Tara Warne-Griggs, senior diversity assessment and research management consultant for the UM System’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Someone with experience in higher education would be able to address the issues head-on, take the heat from it and then work to move forward from that.”

While many of the attendees agreed that upholding the values of the school is an important characteristic to have, some raised the potential issue of putting the interests of the university over those of the students and their civil rights. Elisabeth Zufall, executive assistant at the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX, said the candidate should be “willing to challenge an institution where [they] don’t always feel comfortable looking at biases.”

“It would be difficult for someone to do that, but a person who would fit this role would be able to do it,” Zufall said.

Rhodesia McMillian, MU associate director of K-12 programming, shared a similar sentiment.

“You need someone who is unbossed and unbought,” McMillian said. “I would rather them say no to the dean because it’s fair and just, even if their reputation may be on the line.”

This concern prompted further discussion of the search committee itself potentially being biased toward protecting MU’s reputation, impeding its ability to recruit a truly diverse candidate pool.

“Because we didn't hire a national firm for this search, how do we make sure that this search committee isn't being biased in their decision and holding on to those MU ways?” McMillian said.

Bloom responded to this question by mentioning a follow-up public forum the committee is hoping to put together sometime in January or February. This forum would give university stakeholder representatives and other MU faculty a chance to personally meet with and ask questions to candidates.

Most of the attendees agreed that the most important characteristic of the individual who will assume this role was to not only combat issues related to civil rights but to also be an advocate for social justice issues on campus.

“We want someone who’s not only going to just respond to issues but also raise discussions on campus,” a former MU employee said. “They have to be critically involved … and willing to educate the people on this campus.”

Edited by Sarah Hallam | shallam@themaneater.com

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