By Amethyst Martinez
THE Title IX and equal opportunity compliance director position has been a center of controversy on Rider’s campus over the past year, with at least five directors holding the role since last March. After two interim workers have taken the position since former director Pauline Lloyd’s abrupt departure in November, a permanent appointment has been given to Ryan McKinney, a past Title IX coordinator coming from Moravian University in Pennsylvania.
McKinney will serve alongside Debbie Stasolla, Title IX coordinator and vice president for strategic initiatives and planning, who served as interim director for the office of Title IX and Institutional Compliance from February to March.
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination, harassment and violence and requires schools to follow procedures to investigate complaints.
Title IX coordinator
As Stasolla moves into the coordinator position, Barbara Lawrence, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, will no longer be involved in Title IX issues. Lawrence has served in the coordinator role since July after university restructuring.
Stasolla said, “This was distracting from the good work Barbara Lawrence is doing in her role as chief diversity officer. … In the month that I’ve been doing [the director position] I can see how… oversight as Title IX coordinator requires so much time and energy. … My portfolio is such that I can take it on and give it the attention that it deserves.”
Stasolla was announced to take the position over from Lawrence on March 1 after Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo announced university cabinet restructuring in January.
“We’re going to do our damnedest to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, and that we address any complaints as soon as possible,” said Stasolla. “I know that’s easy for me to say … but I got to prove myself, and so does [McKinney].”
With Stasolla’s goal of filling the director position by March 1 when Lawrence departed from her Title IX responsibilities, Dell’Omo sent out a university wide email on the last day of February announcing McKinney’s appointment to the office.
McKinney declined a one-on-one interview with The Rider News due to his recent hire at the university and, instead, had Stasolla speak on his behalf.
In an email to The Rider News, McKinney said, “I am comfortable with [Stasolla] speaking on my behalf, as we are in this office as a team … I just started this role last week, and need some time to get my feet planted here at Rider.” He also indicated that he would be willing to speak with The Rider News at a later date.
The last permanent director in the office, Lloyd, only served in the position for three months, leaving on Nov. 17, eight days after The Rider News published an article outlining serious student grievances regarding the handling of their Title IX cases.
According to Dell’Omo’s email, prior to McKinney’s appointment at Rider, he served as the deputy Title IX coordinator/university investigator at Moravian University, where he has worked since 2018.
“He brings extensive knowledge of Title IX, the investigation process and the work required to help ensure a safe and supportive environment free of discrimination, harassment and sexual violence to all members of the Rider community,” the email read.
According to Stasolla, four people were interviewed for the position, but McKinney was chosen after an interview process that included both students and employees.
Stasolla also said that her and McKinney’s main goal this semester is to work through the remaining caseload from past unresolved cases.
“I’m not going to pretend that we’re going to get everything right, this semester or going forward, but this is too important, and there’s a lot to be done,” said Stasolla. “We’re trying to take it one step at a time and focus on what’s most important to focus on first.”
Stassola said the office has “about 15” unresolved cases. Once the remaining caseload is handled, Stasolla has a plethora of ideas to improve the Title IX process for those who file cases, such as making the Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy easier to navigate, growing the pool of investigators at the university, implementing quicker response times to cases, presenting information in a different way on campus and online and figuring out a better way to identify the office since some might not know what Title IX means.
“We want to be supportive of anyone who thinks they are a victim of any of those types of behaviors or incidents, [and] that we can be more immediately supportive and available to people,” said Stasolla.