After short tenure, Title IX coordinator steps down

by Gigi Grigorian | 4/6/18 2:40am

Allison O’Connell stepped down today as the College’s Title IX coordinator and Clery Act compliance officer. Kristi Clemens, assistant dean of student affairs and director of case management, will serve as the interim Title IX coordinator spring term while a search takes place for a permanent replacement.

O’Connell’s departure marks the end of a relatively short tenure. O’Connell came to the College in September 2016 as the Title IX program coordinator. In April 2017, she became interim Title IX coordinator while previous coordinator Heather Lindkvist took a medical leave. She officially became the Title IX coordinate and Clery Act compliance officer in August 2017.

O’Connell is stepping down to move to Washington with her partner, who is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine. Her partner was matched last month with a residency in internal medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center, O’Connell said.

“[O’Connell] will be sorely missed,” Title IX program coordinator Mary Lamar Nicholas said. “She has really created so many partnerships across campus and I think that has been vital to the office working well with community members. She has brought heart and empathy to the work in what can be a very difficult job.”

While working as the College’s Title IX coordinator, O’Connell said she had two priorities: partnering with campus and community resources and bolstering the Title IX office’s responsiveness to reports it receives. She said she believed that partnering with other resources such as WISE, the Student Wellness Center and the Office of Residential Life would help her office better serve the College community. O’Connell also worked to improve the Title IX office’s accessibility for both reporting and responding parties, she said.

“I knew I wanted to both be responsive and be perceived as responsive,” O’Connell said. “It takes work to build that kind of trust.”

According to O’Connell, there has been an increase in the number of individuals accessing the Title IX office “in the way that they want and making choices that are best for them.” She has also noticed an increase in individuals utilizing the office’s resources, including housing and academic accommodations, she said.

O’Connell added that she finds this trend “encouraging” because it means that more people are willing to turn to campus resources when they need help.

Kotz wrote that the increase in individuals accessing the office is an “indication of the valuable work [O’Connell] and her team have done in supporting those who approach her office.”

Prior to arriving at Dartmouth, O’Connell worked as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which had similar components to her work in the Title IX office, she said.

“I was assisting people in navigating systems at difficult times in their lives [as a prosecutor],” she said. “That’s really consistent with what I do here, and I probably will be looking for something like that in the future.”

While she has not yet determined her future employment after leaving Dartmouth, O’Connell said she expects to continue working in higher education or in a public service field.

Interim provost David Kotz ’86 wrote in an email statement that appointing Clemens as the interim Title IX coordinator “ensures ... a seamless transition and no interruption in service.”

In her eight years at the College, Clemens said she has collaborated closely with O’Connell to support both reporting and responding undergraduate students working with the Title IX office. Clemens was also a deputy Title IX coordinator at the College during O’Connell’s tenure.

In her current position working with the Office of Student Affairs, Clemens noted that she has formed relationships with people “on all sides of the Green,” including faculty, administrators and students. She added that she also has experience working with students “in tricky situations.” These qualities will serve her and the Title IX office well when she is interim Title IX coordinator, Clemens said.

“I think the office is working well, and I just hope to continue the good work and support all the folks [who] have been doing that work for some time,” Clemens said.

Kotz wrote that the College is currently interviewing candidates for O’Connell’s permanent replacement. According to Clemens, she is a candidate for the permanent position of Title IX coordinator as part of the College’s national search for a replacement for O’Connell. Kotz also noted that the College is “laying plans to expand the staff in the Title IX office in recognition of its important work and increased workload.”