By Amethyst Martinez
NEW permanent Title IX director Ryan McKinney is hoping to change the current reputation the Title IX and Equal Opportunity Compliance office has acquired over the past year, stemming from concerns with case handling to a multitude of others holding McKinney’s position, causing frustration not only from students, but others in the Rider community.
McKinney is at least the fifth person to hold this position since last March, including others who left the university such as Thomas Johnson and Pauline Lloyd, as well as those who held interim roles including Christine M. Pickel and Debbie Stasolla, the current Title IX coordinator.
McKinney comes from the prior position of deputy Title IX coordinator at Moravian University located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he started his career in Title IX in 2018 as an investigator.
Stasolla, the only other worker in the Title IX office, said, “It’s been incredibly helpful, the breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise that [McKinney] brings to the table in the Title IX space.”
Before he began working in Title IX at higher education institutions, McKinney worked for the Bucks County Department of Corrections for 12 years before making the transition.
“I get to be my authentic self in this role,” McKinney said while speaking about the Title IX director position. “I get to engage with people much differently than the criminal justice system.”
McKinney is also a member of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), which the university recently bought an institution-wide membership for. ATIXA provides Title IX training courses and certifications for coordinators, investigators and administrators.
“They’re, in my opinion, the leading organization in Title IX,” said McKinney. “We have access to all sorts of resources that will be very helpful for us, no matter how simple or how difficult the case may be.”
For the hiring process, Stasolla, who chose McKinney, sought different perspectives for the new hire, and had a search committee put in place for the job opportunity. The list included those who previously served in the office, such as Barbara Lawrence, a past Title IX coordinator, as well as students and administration to help choose the new director.
“It was important to me that we had a number of different individuals to interview him,” said Stasolla. “This position works a great deal with students, so it was really important to have students also interview [McKinney], who was our only candidate who came on campus, and the feedback was very, very positive.”
Jenna Muller, a senior human resource management major and student worker in Rider’s Human Resources office, was one of the students who met with McKinney before his hire in March.
“I was looking for, really, somebody with compassion, with empathy, and he really hit all of the points with that,” said Muller. “There was just something about him that you could tell he wasn’t just being fake, and I think that’s what I was really trying to be cautious of.”
McKinney, who started at Rider at the end of February, is still working with Stasolla through the current caseload as well as new cases, which is their main priority until the end of the semester. The office also plans on doing more training to faculty, staff, and students and hopes to update policies to make the Rider community more engaged with Title IX issues.
“Despite some of the challenges that this office may have faced in the past, I hope people feel confident and students feel comfortable, heard and respected,” said McKinney. “This type of work is very challenging, and every situation is unique, and I hope that students feel my respect and compassion for this type of work.”