Designating Title IX Deputy Coordinators in Higher Education

By: Mandy Hambleton, M.S., Director of Content Development, TNG Consulting

The Title IX compliance task is a heavy lift for colleges and schools, far more so now that the 2020 Title IX regulations have taken effect. Many Title IX Coordinators have recognized that a team of deputies is both helpful and necessary to achieve compliance but often raise questions about designating individuals as Deputy Title IX Coordinators, how that designation is effectuated, and what the Deputy Coordinator responsibilities and accountability structure should be.

Drawing upon the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) guide entitled, Who’s Who on the Title IX Team – Higher Education Edition, as well as best practices, this Title IX Tip of the Week will respond to the most frequent questions we receive at ATIXA as they relate to the higher education environment. Understanding how the roles complement and intersect with others allows Title IX Team members to provide a seamless experience to the institution and allows for individuals seeking support from the Title IX Team (e.g., supportive measures, requesting training, filing a complaint, etc.) to clearly identify the appropriate resource/person. Regardless of how an institution chooses to structure its Title IX Team, it is imperative that all roles work collectively to ensure compliance.

Q: How does the Deputy Coordinator role differ from the Title IX Coordinator role?

A: The Title IX Coordinator (TIXC) is the institution’s designated Title IX compliance authority. TIXCs should be spending more of their time and energy working ON gender equity rather than IN gender equity, meaning they should be focused on the overall gender equity climate of the institution rather than managing individual complaints. More specifically, TIXCs should be focused on systemic policy, process, and prevention topics including assessing campus climate and current program effectiveness; collaboration and cooperation with campus and community partners; and ensuring other members of the Title IX Team have the appropriate knowledge, skills, training, and resources necessary to successfully fulfill their responsibilities.

In contrast, Deputy Coordinators are often individuals designated by an institution to assist with the management and implementation of population-specific compliance strategies and programs. Most institutions will designate a Deputy Coordinator for some or all of the following populations: students, employees (faculty and staff), third parties (vendors, contractors, volunteers, etc.), and athletics (if applicable). Where the TIXC is not housed in student affairs or human resources, a deputy is frequently designated in each of those departments. It is also common for some institutions to situate a deputy in academic affairs. Another common model is to designate Deputy Coordinators in multiple physical locations, for institutions with multiple campuses, extension sites, etc.

For some campuses, Deputy Coordinators are delegated many of the same tasks as the TIXC would have, in a “many hands make lighter labor” approach. For other campuses, Deputy Coordinators have delineated roles, such as investigators, senior woman administrators (athletics), prevention professionals, etc. Regardless of model, Deputy Coordinators are considered thought-leaders on the Title IX Team and should be organizationally situated to effect broad-scale change and garner stakeholder buy-in from the campus constituencies they represent. Deputy Coordinators should be mindful of population-specific needs, trends, and issues related to sex or gender-based discrimination or misconduct and provide thought-leadership for ongoing inclusion efforts. Recommendations for Deputy TIXC actions are delineated by the population below.

Deputy Coordinators often serve as investigators or supervise investigations for complaints involving respondents which align with their specific population, with the exception of athletics. The Deputy Coordinator in athletics is responsible for gender equity compliance, as well as any applicable governing body requirements related to gender equity or sexual misconduct. Deputy Coordinators can serve as Decision-makers but should be careful if the Appeal Decision-maker reports to them or they report to the Appeal Decision-maker, as these employment relationships may invite questions about the independence of each decision.

Q: Can an institution have one Title IX Coordinator who reports to student affairs and another Title IX Coordinator who reports to human resources?

A: In short, yes, but this practice is less practical now than it was prior to the issuance of the 2020 Title IX Regulations. The regulations require that recipients follow prescriptive procedural requirements for a formal grievance process including investigation, live hearing, and appeal, and using the same standard of evidence regardless of the respondent’s affiliation with the institution (e.g., student, faculty, or staff).

While different individuals or entities may serve as Investigators, Decision-makers, and Appeal decision-makers based on the respondent’s affiliation, institutions with limited resources would benefit from establishing a cross-trained pool of individuals who can serve in multiple capacities within the formal grievance process and are not summarily restricted from cases based on the affiliation of the respondent. This ensures that members of the pool are gaining experience with a variety of cases and are less likely to have their training “go stale” before using it in practice.

Bifurcation of the TIXC role also sets an institution up for potential information silos, which could create challenges for collective comprehensive institutional data and tracking trends over time. Further, while the TIXC role is collaborative by design, there may be times when differing perspectives on an issue lead to an impasse and a designated authority needs to make a decision on behalf of the institution. Not having a single lead TIXC may cause another individual, such as legal counsel, to insert themselves into the ultimate decision-making role, which is outside the scope of their role. Rather than a TIXC for students in student affairs, and a TIXC for employees in HR, ATIXA prefers an over-arching TIXC outside of those areas, with deputies in each.

Q:  How should Deputy Title IX Coordinators be designated and supervised?

A:  Institutional practices for designating Deputy Coordinators will vary depending upon the institution’s Title IX Team structure, whether the role is a stand-alone position or an add-on to an existing role, whether the role is being assigned to a person (not recommended) or to a position, and how the Deputy Coordinator will be evaluated within the institution’s performance evaluation process. If the role is not stand-alone, a formal written role and responsibilities description should be issued in a letter from the Title IX Coordinator or a section for the role should be added to the official position description on file with human resources.

If a Deputy does not report directly to the Title IX Coordinator, clear expectations for communication and accountability need to be established in collaboration with the Deputy’s direct supervisor. Further, if the direct supervisor does not have the requisite training and experience to evaluate effectiveness in the Deputy Coordinator role, the Title IX Coordinator should be provided with a means to provide formal performance feedback during the institution’s regular performance evaluation process.

For more information and Title IX-related support tools, visit ATIXA’s resource library, or consider becoming a member of ATIXA. Additionally, you may be interested in visiting this link to learn more about the higher education services provided by ATIXA and TNG Consulting.