Title IX director departs, Rider announces interim

By Amethyst Martinez

Rider has faced serious grievances with the university’s Title IX office: a revolving door of directors, with concerns of cases falling through the cracks as at least four workers have been placed in the position over the past year.

Pauline Lloyd is the latest to leave the university, departing right before Thanksgiving break after holding the director position for three months. Her departure was announced on Nov. 17, eight days after The Rider News published an article detailing serious student concerns regarding the handling of multiple cases from the Title IX office and reports that have been open for over a year.

According to an email sent university-wide by Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo on Nov. 17, a new interim director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity Compliance, attorney Christine M. Pickel, has been hired until someone can permanently fill the position.

Barbara Lawrence, Title IX coordinator, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer, said she could not comment on Lloyd’s abrupt departure from the university, but said that the office is making changes to better assist students with their cases. In The Rider News article outlining student concerns with the office that was released on Nov. 9, among the biggest issues were lack of communication and the longevity of unresolved reports, which Lawrence specified as something they plan on fixing.

“The main priority [is] to make sure that we are connecting with as many folks who’ve been involved in cases,” said Lawrence. “There are a few … lingering cases that just needed some [closure] with just making sure that students involved were still wanting to move forward in the way that they wanted to, or because we had a few cases where students went back and forth. So that’s going to be our main priority, is to make sure that we are focusing on cases that are still open technically.”

Lawrence also said that she met with Student Government Association (SGA) President Andrew Bernstein recently to speak about student concerns.

“He shared some of the things that students mentioned about the Title IX process and the resolution of cases, and one of the things that he and I agreed on is there is an opportunity now for us to try to communicate with students a little more frequently as to what’s happening,” Lawrence said.

Bernstein called it a “very productive meeting.”

“Not only did I try to [relay] the concerns we’ve been hearing from students to her,” Bernstein said. “But also I wanted to emphasize the need to implement some actual changes. … My goal was to understand some of the reasons as to why we’re hearing complaints from students and to begin brainstorming how to actually solve these issues. Student safety and well-being is the most important part of a college community so it’s imperative that we get this right.”

In an SGA Senate meeting held on Nov. 17, the day of Lloyd’s departure announcement, a student voiced her concern with this constant “revolving door” of directors, and the worry that cases are slipping through the cracks due to this constant change of personnel within the office.

Lloyd’s tenure & departure

Lloyd had only served as director of the office for three months, her arrival outlined in a student-wide email sent on Sept. 7, the first day of the fall semester. The email sent out by Lawrence stated that Lloyd brought previous experience as a senior associate sexual harassment/assault response and equal opportunity leader with the U.S. Army, along with also working as a planning associate of educational programs with the department of military and veteran affairs. It also said that she recently worked as an adjunct professor at the university and jumped into her new role as director on Sept. 1.

Since then, Lloyd had remained tight-lipped about her role at the university, declining multiple interview requests with The Rider News.

Lloyd’s departure was abrupt, with Kristine Brown, Rider’s associate vice president for university marketing and communications confirming that Lloyd left the university on Nov. 16, the day before Dell’Omo’s email announcing the new interim director. Brown also said that the university cannot comment on personnel matters.

In Dell’Omo’s email, he announced that Pickel will serve as the interim director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity Compliance and has a wide array of experience with Title IX related issues.

“Pickel has over fifteen years of experience conducting investigations, serving as a Title IX hearing officer, and advising on issues of regulatory compliance,” said Dell’Omo. “She has worked with other institutions of higher education in a similar interim capacity and regularly consults with colleges and universities regarding Title IX compliance and best practices.”

Lawrence said that Pickel is going to assist with configuring the office’s new way of handling cases and helping students.

“She’s going to come in and really help us move forward with the expansion and how we certainly address a few cases that are still lingering, but moving forward with any new cases with students that will be able to address them in a way that is better for students, and when I say better, I mean, where we have fewer challenges and complaints,” said Lawrence. “Hopefully with [Pickel] here, we can be able to not only respond quicker, but resolve cases in a way that doesn’t take as long as it does.”

Earlier this month, Lawrence told The Rider News that the office has received fewer than five reports thus far this semester.

Pickel will have an on-campus office that was once Lloyd’s, and also be available remotely outside of her campus hours as needed. Pickel could not be reached for comment.

The search for a replacement

Now, Rider has begun the search for someone new to fill the shoes of the director role.

In Dell’Omo’s email, he stated that the search will begin immediately.

Lawrence said that the office is looking for, “someone who’s able to work with students, staff and faculty to coordinate a way that kind of speaks to cohesiveness.”

One concern that Lawrence stated in the Nov. 9 article is the office’s issue of understaffing, which has been a university- wide problem. Lawrence said that in the long term, the office wants to add other positions.

“I would say that’s a long term goal,” said Lawrence. “But right now, I don’t want to say that we can afford to do that at this moment.”

Brown said, “The current plan is to hire a full-time director for the office. Once that individual is on board, they will assess the office needs moving forward.”

In addition, Lawrence said the office is now working on addressing student concerns.

“I’m just looking forward to how we can be … more supportive to students,” said Lawrence. “There’s a perception out there that we haven’t been that supportive over the years.”

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