By Amethyst Martinez
AS President Gregory Dell’Omo announced a major cabinet restructuring, the Office of Title IX and Institutional Equity is facing a massive overhaul, with two new employees expected by March 1.
In an email sent to Rider faculty, staff and students on Jan. 20, Dell’Omo outlined many changes to his cabinet, set to be in effect Feb. 1. The switch was attributed to an “ambitious” goal of seeking financial stability and increased student retention for the university amid economic difficulties.
Restructuring the Title IX office
The Title IX office, however, is facing the biggest structural change with both workers being replaced by March 1. The office is currently occupied by external attorney Christine Pickel, interim director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity compliance, who has served in the position since December, when former director Pauline Lloyd abruptly left Rider after just three months on the job. Her exit is joined by Barbara Lawrence, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, Title IX coordinator, who has served in the Title IX office since July but will no longer serve in that role under the restructuring.
Both Pickel and Lawrence declined an interview with The Rider News.
The office has faced serious staffing issues over the past year with at least five workers holding the director position and two holding the coordinator role. Students have voiced concerns over the constant change of staff, with instances of cases being open for over a year without responses from Rider officials.
After a Rider News article outlining student issues with the Title IX office was published on Nov. 9, an anonymous concerned parent asked Dell’Omo to respond to these issues in an email sent to him on Nov. 13. Dell’Omo responded the same day, saying: “We are well aware of the cases mentioned in [The Rider News] and are following up on each one.”
However, in the months since the article was published, none of the victims have been reached out to, and one student dropped their case after expressing frustration with the lack of communication and action.
When asked about the lack of response for these cases from officials on Jan. 27, Dell’Omo said, “As we talked internally about these situations, I was under the impression that people were being contacted or reached out to at one level or another … So that’s [a] concern for me, and I will follow up on that.”
Debbie Stasolla, a member of Dell’Omo’s cabinet and Rider’s vice president for strategic initiatives and planning and secretary to the board, is beginning oversight of the Title IX office on March 1, taking Lawrence’s coordinator position.
“I’m very much aware of that turnover and the effect that it’s had,” said Stasolla. “I’ve been at Rider for 30 years, and there’s a reason I’ve been asked to take on this role.”
The director position has yet to be filled, with Pickel leaving her temporary role on Feb. 8. Stasolla said she will also take on the role of interim director when Pickel leaves until a permanent employee is found, which she expects by March 1 when she transitions to Title IX coordinator.
Stasolla has experience with Public Safety for over a decade and also helped establish and write the first Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy used by Rider. She also plans on redoing the policy to make it easier for students to navigate.
“I hope that some of my background, my commitment to the position, and the fact that I do work closely with those who report to me [and] who have reported to me over the years, that together [we] will make a good team,” said Stasolla. “But the student body is going to have to just take it a day at a time, and you’ll see how it works … words are not going to be enough to convince. It’s going to have to be action.”
Other cabinet restructuring
Other cabinet members are also being placed in different roles, which is expected to be in effect Feb. 1. According to Kristine Brown, associate vice president for university marketing and communications, the cabinet will also take a 5% salary reduction beginning Feb. 1 for the next year.
DonnaJean Fredeen will take the role of senior vice president for academic affairs and provost reporting to Dell’Omo. Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs and Lawrence, along with their divisions and departments, will report to Fredeen. Lawrence will no longer be a part of the Title IX office and will now only serve as her role of vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer.
“I believe by directly aligning Academic Affairs with Student Affairs and the Division of Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we will take a significant step forward in creating a culture rooted in a shared philosophy, strategy, and responsibility for student success, retention, and persistence to graduation,” said Dell’Omo.
James Hartman will take on the role of senior vice president for finance/treasurer and chief financial officer and report to Dell’Omo. Robert Stoto, vice president of human resources and affirmative action, and Michael Reca, vice president of facilities and university operations, along with their divisions and departments, will report to Hartman.
“The purpose of consolidating essential business functions under [Hartman’s] leadership is to establish an enterprise-wide focus on identifying new sources of auxiliary revenue, economic growth strategies and future workforce needs,” said Dell’Omo in an email.
Dell’Omo ended the email by saying that these changes are imperative to solidify revenue sources, and will result in better synergies and efficiencies among his cabinet.
“I think that it’s going to have [a] dramatic impact not only on the experience, but to finance the university to be much, much more efficient,” said Dell’Omo.