Union hires first full-time Title IX coordinator

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Melissa Kelley will be joining the campus community as the college’s first full-time Title IX coordinator. (Courtesy of Union College)

The arrival of the new year has coincided with the arrival of a new face on campus: Melissa Kelley, Union’s first full-time Title IX coordinator.

Kelley will be taking over the position that was previously handled part-time by Chief Diversity Officer Gretchel Hathaway. Hathaway will remain in her position at Union, but will transfer her duties as Title IX coordinator to Kelley.

“I think that hiring a full-time Title IX Coordinator is a significant step for Union,” Kelley stated.

She continued, “I am able to focus my efforts to oversee the college’s response to reports and complaints that involve possible sexual misconduct, monitor outcomes, identify and address patterns and coordinate strategic educational initiatives. While much of this work has been done in the past already by others, this full-time position enables me to address issues that affect the wider school community and to continue the great work that has already been started here on campus.”

Kelley previously worked at the University of Rochester, where she was a health educator and advocate to students who had experienced sexual assault.

While at the University of Rochester, Kelley helped initiate programs that encouraged students to learn more and speak up about sexual assault on campus, and she aims to do the same at Union.

“I hope to continue to grow the bystander educational initiatives that have preceded my arrival and work collaboratively with staff and students to create tools that will help our community put an end to sexual violence,” Kelley said.

Outside of her job, Kelley has occupied positions in the America College Health Association’s Health Promotion Section and New York State College Health Association. She received her doctorate in education in human development from the University of Rochester, and her dissertation was about women in Pan-Hellenic sororities and their insights and reports of hooking up on campus.

She is a member of Delta Gamma and continues to take an active role in the University of Rochester chapter. “I am very much connected to the Greek community and, as a member of a Pan-Hellenic sorority myself, I value the contributions that our sororities and fraternities can bring to the work that I will do on campus. My hope is to be able to work with students from all different facets of the college, and I welcome collaboration from student groups, teams and organizations,” Kelley affirmed.

A Schenectady native, Kelley said that Union “felt like the right place to be.” She hopes that she will be able to forge strong relationships with students and her fellow faculty members in order to work in tandem on many on-campus projects.

She said that the position of Title IX coordinator “is an important one, namely because it is about providing support for students and ensuring that students have access to education and resources necessary to prevent sexual violence as well as ensuring that we have a safe community for all.”

Title IX is a federal law that was enacted in 1972, prohibiting gender-based discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Kelley’s hiring comes after Union altered its sexual assault policies over the summer in response to the “Enough is Enough” legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last June. The legislation is an attempt to prompt schools to take a greater role in fighting sexual assault on their campuses.

Kelley’s hiring also follows the announcement in October that Union’s sexual assault policies are under review by the Office of Civil Rights following an incident that took place in the 2014-2015 academic year.

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