Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Title IX program officer to be hired by May, AU says

Office of Campus Life looks to fill position after Heather Pratt’s March departure

New Title IX program officer to be hired by May, AU says

The official headshot of Heather Pratt, Title IX Program Officer, Office of Campus Life.

The University will hire a new full time Title IX program officer by May 2017 following the recent departure of Heather Pratt, said Dean of Students Rob Hradsky.   

Pratt left AU last month for another job in higher education, the University announced in a memo. She joined the campus community in December 2015 to serve as the school’s first Title IX officer. While at AU, her primary responsibility was to investigate complaints related to Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law. Hradsky is serving as the interim officer while the Office of Campus Life searches for a replacement.

The office is currently holding Skype interviews and bringing candidates to campus for the position, Hradsky said. 

“We’re looking for someone who has had Title IX experience in the past, maybe as an investigator, maybe as an adjudicator,” Hradsky said. “Someone who understands a trauma-informed approach, so that as they are working with complainants, they are best able to conduct a thorough investigation in a sensitive way.” 

Hradsky said different campus groups will be invited to meet the candidates and provide feedback. 

“There will be a lot of input in the process,” Hradsky said. Dr. Fanta Aw, interim Vice President of Campus Life, will make the final hiring decision.

Until Pratt’s position is filled, Hradsky and his team will take over her workload along with the help of a full time investigator, Johnine P. Barnes, J.D.. Barnes is a lawyer in D.C. who specializes in discrimination and harassment claims. Hradsky said his office has been working in conjunction with the Title IX officer all along as far as meeting the needs of a complainant; the dean of students provides academic and housing accommodations for students, as well as no contact orders.

Before Pratt was brought on, Hradsky served as the Title IX coordinator in addition to his other responsibilities. AU needed an additional full-time staff member to facilitate the work load, Hradsky said. 

Hradsky said it is the job of a Title IX officer to educate staff, faculty and students, conduct investigations based on Title IX-related complaints and adjudicate those same complaints. He added that by creating a separate Title IX role, they consolidated the responsibilities into one position, as opposed to the past where multiple people worked on an investigation. 

The Title IX officer conducts an investigation when anyone files a complaint in relation to discrimination based on sex or gender. The investigator must respond to the parties involved, review evidence, develop a report and then decide the necessary conduct measures for a given situation.  

Though Pratt’s tenure at AU lasted only a little over a year, she left an impact on the students she came into contact with. Emily Carnevale, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, worked with Pratt during a past investigation. 

“Although I was there to talk to her about a serious issue, she made the conversation easier by handing out stress relief toys and asking me about my personal life,” Carnevale said. “I knew she was there to help.”

bcrummy@theeagleonline.com


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