Sonoma State assigns new Title IX coordinator

Sonoma State University has assigned Bill Kidder, associate vice president and former chief of staff for the president, to a new, interim position to oversee and run the Title IX office. His new title will be interim associate vice president for Title IX and strategic initiatives. Joyce Suzuki was previously the campus coordinator for the office.

“Title IX is something I care about deeply,” Kidder said. “Title IX really speaks to my values and expertise professionally.”

Title IX is a federal law that, among other things, aims to prevent sexual assault and harassment on college campuses and ensures student’s basic rights. From July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, the Title IX office at Sonoma State received 58 reports of sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence and stalking. Of those cases, 14 resulted in full investigations.

During that same year, the Title IX office received 13 reports of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. It is assumed there are many other unreported cases.

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 “Complaints and concerns are on the uptick at Sonoma and other campus,” said Lisa Vollendorf, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, during a Sept. 14 Academic Senate meeting. “We are within compliance and this will sync up our practices.”

Sonoma State reported 11 cases during the 2015-16 school year in which investigations into alleged sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence or stalking, and the perpetrator was held responsible in some way. These actions ranged from the issuing of reprimands to suspensions and expulsions.

President Judy Sakaki said she chose Kidder for the new post because of his “depth and breadth of expertise in the area.”  The Title IX office at SSU reported to Kidder last year as well as the Title IX office at UC Riverside when he served as the associate vice-chancellor and chief compliance officer. 

Kidder is the co-author of a study called “A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty,” which they published in May. The study analyzed about 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities

 “When we educate more, we expect to receive more complaints as people become comfortable to come forward,” Sakaki said in reference to a question about why there is a trend of more complaints.

“I regard this as a positive trend because it means that more members of our community are choosing to come forward to file complaints,” Kidder said.

The Title IX office will be moving to 207 International Hall and will be under Joyce Lopes, vice president of administration and finance. 

“The new location on the second floor for International Hall is more student-friendly,” Kidder said. “Students will have several choices about how to enter and exit the building.”

SSU plans on holding an open recruitment for a permanent Title IX chief, and Kidder has expressed interest in applying for the position. 

“One more important items to note is that affirmative consent is a cornerstone of CSU’s Title IX policy,” said Kidder. “Affirmative consent means an informed, affirmative, conscious, voluntary and mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity. Silence does not mean consent,” he said.