By Victoria Maneske
On Monday, Nov. 9, CI sent out an email introducing Rebecca Lawrence as the new Executive Director for Equity & Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator.
According to Lawrence, the position oversees CI’s compliance with federal laws, civil rights laws and the systems executive orders that cover protected classes, such as with gender, race, religion and disability. Along with compliance to the laws, there is also outreach, education and training to ensure all issues are addressed.
“It’s also about making sure the campus is inclusive through our programming, our education, our training,” Lawrence said. “Taking a step back and looking at, you know, things that we’ve always done a certain way and trying to figure out, is it always inclusive? Can students with disabilities really participate in this? And then, how do we get rid of the roadblocks that may be in the way for full access and participation?”
Lawrence has held three similar roles from previous institutions, starting off as a Title IX investigator directly out of law school. Before that, she was in AmeriCorps VISTA doing social services work, including prisoner reentry. Afterwards, she moved up to broader positions and covered more areas than just Title IX. She has a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from Wright State University, a master’s degree in gender and social policy from London School of Economics and Political Science and a juris doctor from University of Cincinnati College of Law.
As of now, Lawrence is gathering all the information she needs to know about the campus and community, listening to where people are at and their experiences with the office. One of her goals is to establish timeliness with complaints: to make sure that they are all investigated, addressed and resolved in a timely manner. “A big goal of mine is figuring out what the university needs related to my area and then going from there,” Lawrence said.
Another aspect she wants to maintain is keeping a neutral office space when it comes to reports and investigations. “As reports come in, we don’t take a stance on a particular report until we investigate it. So, making sure people understand that we are neutral fact finders in that way, but we’re still sort of advocating for the end of, you know, civil rights violation, sexual assault, those kinds of things,” Lawrence stated.
As we are in the midst of this pandemic, one concern Lawrence has is equity access. Students and staff are working from home, and some may not have the best resources to access what they need to succeed, causing them to fall behind. She is concerned that some students may not be able to reach out to campus resources, such as to Student Affairs, for help because of those equity access issues.
Lawrence further stated, “I think about students and staff who are in living situations where maybe there’s dating violence, domestic violence, something like that, and usually would have been on campus and it would have gotten, you know, at least some sort of … break from whatever is happening in the home. That always bothers me, and then just people not realizing that we’re still here. We can still, if it falls under our purview, we can still investigate. If you need resources, we can still do referrals. All of those things are still here, but I think a lot of people assume that, since we’re remote, like, ‘you can’t help me.’ That’s not true, we definitely want to.”
CI upholds many resources for students to access, striving to foster a more inclusive and healthy community. Despite the challenges of being primarily virtual, many programs are still open and eager to serve the community through student feedback and engagement.
“My motivation for this work comes from my time as an undergrad. I started off at an institution that was not for people like me. I was first generation, person of color, they weren’t really too inclusive. I just had a really bad experience and I almost dropped out,” Lawrence said. “But then I transferred to an institution that was made for people like me, and they were inclusive. They had, you know, pantry services and a women’s center I could go to, and the civil rights office would investigate if something came up and those sorts of things. So, for me I really understand what it feels like to be a student and have your world sort of surrounding this experience of being in college and then not feeling supported.”
Despite our primarily virtual environment, Lawrence is eager to hear student feedback and assist in any way she can pertaining to her field. “We have a team, CSU has great resources, the students and the staff are great, so I’m just excited to see what we can do,” she said. If you would like to contact her with any ideas or questions, her email is email@example.com. You can also check out CI’s Title IX website at https://www.csuci.edu/titleix/ for more resources and information, and you can go to https://www.csuci.edu/titleix/contact.htm for more contact information with Title IX.