Updated Jan. 11, 2018 at 9:30 p.m.
On Jan. 15, Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services office will open three new offices and officially begin its redesign aimed at increasing its effectiveness. The EAD is tasked with monitoring the university’s compliance with equal opportunity and affirmative action laws, providing religious and disabilities accommodations, investigating discrimination and harassment complaints and provide training in areas related to discrimination, harassment, disabilities, diversity and sexual misconduct.
Under the new structure, the office will be split into three, more specific offices: the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the Student Access Services Office and the Title IX Office. All three offices will report to Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain. Prior to the redesign, the services provided by these offices were all overseen by the singular EAD office.
“Having dedicated offices will allow for greater focus and specialization on the unique needs posed by student claims of discrimination and sexual misconduct,” Kopstain said in an email to The Hustler. “Having specialists to focus only on student needs, with separate offices to focus on student accessibility and faculty and staff discrimination and accommodations we believe will enhance the level of service and support we are able to provide.”
The development of the redesign began last year with a “stakeholder engagement process,” which entails interviewing students, faculty and staff to determine the exact needs of the university.
“We began this process months ago – during which we listened to and considered feedback from our community members, which largely covered issues such as timeliness of responses and resolution of issues; accessibility, broadly speaking, and resource levels,” Kopstain said. “We looked at peer institutions as well. Ultimately, we determined that separate, dedicated offices would enhance our ability to provide timely, comprehensive and professional support services.”
As stated in a MyVU press release, the equal employment opportunity focus will be on nondiscrimination and anti-harassment, faculty and staff accommodations and an affirmative action program in accordance with Vanderbilt’s requirements as a federal contractor. These specialized services will be overseen by former EAD director Anita Jenious in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
The Title IX office, which will focus on gender equity and sexual misconduct, will be overseen by Molly Zlock, who formerly served as Vanderbilt’s Title IX compliance manager and will now serve as director of the office and as the Title IX coordinator.
Tiffany Taylor, former Disability Services Program Director, will serve as the interim director of Student Access Services, which manages disability and academic accommodations.
The changes came about due to increased demand for equal opportunity, disability and Title IX services over the last few years, according to a university press release. Kopstain said in the release that the aim of the redesign is to increase the university’s ability to provide services to students in a more comprehensive and timely fashion. As part of expanding the university’s capacity to serve students, Kopstain told the Hustler that Vanderbilt will also be increasing staff in the new departments as needed.
“During the redesign process all EAD staff were allocated to the three new offices and we will hire additional staff as needed to the support the directors of the offices in providing the services our students, faculty and staff require,” Kopstain said.
Last week, the Vanderbilt Political Review published the third part in a series investigating how Vanderbilt handles power-based personal violence, which looks into various student opinions of the EAD and Title IX offices. The article called for increased accountability of the EAD office and widespread changes to address student needs and improve the experience of those who choose to go through with the reporting process.
The new offices and websites will open on Jan. 15.