By Dan Fotoples, J.D., M.A., Director of Content Development, TNG Consulting
Title IX Coordinators are just like everyone else. They take leaves of absence for health-related reasons or family matters. They may accept a promotion or a new role elsewhere. They get burned out by the work or burned by the politics. They retire. Yet, unlike other positions in K-12 districts or at colleges or universities, the Title IX Coordinator role is required by federal law. The role cannot remain vacant while a search ensues. As a result, recipients often appoint an Interim Title IX Coordinator until they select a new permanent Coordinator.
The question becomes: “How do I select an Interim Title IX Coordinator and how do I set them up for success?” With all the turnover we see in the field, this is an urgent and important question. Failure to designate and properly train an Interim Title IX Coordinator can create liability if compliance responsibilities or discrimination complaints fall through the cracks.
Selecting an Interim Title IX Coordinator is a question of availability and competence. Do you have an existing employee who has the time and energy to take on interim duties? As budgets tighten, staffing cuts occur, and demands on employee time increase, simply finding someone with sufficient time and energy to fulfill the role may be challenging. Then couple the availability question with the issue of Title IX competence. Do you have an employee that has the necessary Title IX expertise to meet the needs of the role? Are you able to bring someone up to speed quickly? A placeholder won’t do. You need someone who can maintain the course of a complex program and its many moving parts.
At this point, you might be scrolling through your options in your head to see if anyone meets the availability/competence criteria. Often, recipients will look to Deputy Title IX Coordinators. They are likely to have the most training for the role behind the full-time Coordinator, and you may be able to move around some of their job responsibilities to make room for the interim role. If you have multiple deputies, you may ask whether it makes sense to split interim responsibilities, such as sending complaints with employee respondents to the deputy in human resources and complaints with student respondents to a student-facing deputy. Other possibilities include student conduct professionals, deans of students, senior housing officers, or DEI professionals. Often, folks in such roles will have familiarity with Title IX or other anti-discrimination and harassment laws.
If no one is coming to mind or has the bandwidth internally, you may want to consider whether you are able to contract with an external provider for interim Title IX services. TNG Consulting, ATIXA’s management company, provides interim services, and we encourage you to reach out to discuss your needs with us. TNG’s expert consultants (most of whom were previously full-time Title IX Coordinators employed) provided more than two dozen such placements in 2022, ranging from two weeks to fifteen months. Whether you are looking for someone to be your interim Title IX Coordinator, or just for someone to support your existing interim’s success, bringing in an expert may be the right move. Regardless, it is a good idea to identify possible interim candidates or interim solutions before you are faced with a staffing emergency, so start the necessary succession planning now.
Once you identify a suitable interim Title IX Coordinator, the next step is setting up a successful transition. Hopefully, the outgoing Title IX Coordinator will be a significant contributor to the transition materials. Depending on the length of the interim period – taking a week-long vacation may not require all these steps – transition materials should generally include:
- Detailed summaries of all open complaints. The interim must know all the details of any matters that have moved beyond the reporting stage, including any intake, formal complaint, informal resolution, or formal resolution processes. If you use an electronic record system, you may be able to create a summary within each individual file, keeping information organized and secure.
- All open reports and status updates. The interim should have access to all reports that have not yet reached the intake stage, including any communication or outreach the current Title IX Coordinator (or other staff) completed.
- Staffing details. If your Title IX program has other staff, such as case managers, investigators, volunteer advisors, or deputies, the interim should know any details related to supervision and oversight.
- Annual training requirements. The interim should have an update on whether any training requirements are unmet, including NCAA compliance requirements.
- Athletics compliance requirements. It may make sense to try and facilitate a meeting with the Title IX Coordinator’s compliance counterpart in athletics to review compliance requirements. There may be an opportunity to share duties or form a partnership with athletics during the interim period.
- Upcoming programming. The Title IX Coordinator should provide details of any programming commitments for which the interim will assume responsibility.
- Professional development resources and opportunities. If your Title IX office has any professional association memberships or other professional development resources, passing those along to the interim will make their life easier.
- Training materials and access to training records, including attendance.
- Access to former and current Title IX policies and procedures.
- Any information about open or resolved EEOC or OCR complaints or lawsuits.
- Any protocols for complaint response, provision of supportive measures, assessing jurisdiction, processing dismissals, and implementing emergency removals.
- Any quirks in your process:
- In one of our interim placements, the interim Title IX Coordinator’s supervisor was very hands-on and wanted weekly reporting to them of major actions taken by the Title IX office. In another, the supervisor position was also vacant, and the interim Title IX Coordinator had to figure out reporting structures on their own.
- One of our interims faced a monthly reporting requirement to the Board of Trustees, while another had a quarterly reporting expectation, and most interim placements only had an annual report expectation.
- In another interim placement, our consultant had to adapt to having three different outside law firms weigh in on compliance questions or tough cases when they arose. Our consultant faced challenges with trying to navigate disagreements between those firms.
- Important collaborative relationships. What are the relationships in place with case management offices, advocacy programs, academic affairs, local police, the registrar, etc.? These relationships grease the wheels of Title IX progress, but they are often based on unwritten, long-standing practices rather than policies, procedures, or formal protocols. Onboarding your interim should include a primer on such relationships, including any relationships with district or institutional leadership.
- Clery Act protocols (for colleges). The Title IX Coordinator is often a key resource for providing statistics on campus crimes reported to the Title IX office.
- Any access to Title IX office email accounts and online reporting systems.
To facilitate a transition, the outgoing Title IX Coordinator should meet with the interim Title IX Coordinator to review transition materials, when possible. Depending on the Title IX structure, legal counsel or other supervisors or stakeholders may also be present in the transition meeting(s).
As staffing changes are often unpredictable, recipients should consider developing a set of procedures and expectations for Title IX transitions. Following a roadmap helps to ensure that transitions remain consistent, and nothing falls through the cracks. The time to develop transition procedures is while your Title IX office is fully staffed, not in a panic when a Title IX Coordinator submits their two-week notice. Importantly, the interim Title IX Coordinator needs to know whether they are expected to keep the ship afloat or break some eggs. Clever supervisors often can empower interim administrators to shake things up when needed, without as much concern for district or institutional politics. Using an interim as a catalyst for change can often accomplish needed reform quickly, without worrying about expending political capital.