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Justice for All: Conversation with Catawba’s Title IX Administrator

Erin+Wood+in+her+office.
Erin Wood in her office.

Erin Wood in her office.

Michael Jones

Michael Jones

Erin Wood in her office.

Michael Jones, Editor

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According to a 1979 Federal law, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This policy is known as Title IX and, as Dr. Erin Wood put it, “Catawba is undergoing a transformation in terms of how [we understand] the role that Title IX plays.”

This year, Catawba College created the position of Title IX administrator, a position which Dr. Wood now holds in addition to her position as Associate Professor of Psychology. As a psychologist, her degree from Virginia Commonwealth University is in biopsychology, with emphases on behavioral pharmacology and genetics. Furthermore, as a professor, she also teaches classes on health psychology, behavior modification, and sex/gender. She has also taught courses in the Honors program; in the Spring of 2015, she co-taught a course on death and dying with Dr. Janice Fuller, and next semester, she will co-teach a course on neurodiversity with Dr. Beth Homan.

In addition to her multitude of academic accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Wood was formerly the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Athletics, a title which has since been replaced with that of Title IX administrator. When I asked her about that evolution from coordinator to administrator, she explained that whoever is in charge of Title IX procedures “has to be able to affect change across the campus…and in order to most support that, we wanted this position to have [administrative authority].”

The process by which this position was created is perhaps best understood in terms of Catawba’s history with Title IX. In our interview, Dr. Wood explained that “in 2010, we had a resolution agreement…that Catawba was out of compliance with Title IX for athletic team discrepancies, so there were fewer opportunities for female athletes than for male athletes.”

To be clear, Catawba was not out of compliance with the law itself, but out of compliance with our own policies, which are more expansive and comprehensive than the law itself. “When there’s an allegation of a policy violation that falls under Title IX, it’s not that Title IX was violated,” Dr. Wood explains, but Title IX is designed to “make sure that an institution follows its own policies and procedures […] that are under the umbrella of federal compliance to Title IX.” Therefore, while Catawba was making great strides in regards to reaching for improved sex and gender equity, we were also having some difficulty reaching our own lofty goals. As always, however, the Catawba College administration was quick to pick up on these issues and work towards fixing the problem at hand.

One element of resolving this issue was “that we had someone identified as the Title IX coordinator who would be responsible for programming, ensuring [that] all policies and procedures were compliant, [and] ensuring that we adhere to our policies and procedures.” This position, formerly held by Dr. Jim Hand, now belongs to Dr. Wood, now with the title of “administrator” rather than “coordinator.”

As Catawba moves forward, the community will continue to engage in conversations –such as the It’s On Us campaign, a conversation and initiative related to reducing the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses – about increased equity for all people on our campus and in the larger Rowan-Salisbury community. Dr. Wood will play a substantial role in that conversation, ensuring that our Fair Catawba becomes fairer for everyone who walks through our doors.

[This article is featured in the Fall 2016 Print Edition of the Catawba Pioneer.]

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Justice for All: Conversation with Catawba’s Title IX Administrator