We have entered the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month against the backdrop of a vicious pandemic and growing polarization. Yet, there are individuals who dedicate their lives to ensuring a more fair and just world. To hear from someone on the front lines of this work, I sat down with Erica Moorer, the Director of the Office of Equity and Title IX at the University of Redlands.
In our interview, Moorer discusses her efforts to make a more equitable campus, and how the #MeToo and #BLM movements influence her work.
To begin, could you define Title IX for our readers?
Title IX is a federal law that gives you the right to go to school and work in an environment free of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination. This law is not new or recently because of the #MeToo movement. However, the #MeToo movement aided in bringing more light, regulation, and support to ensure universities had clear policies and procedures to support adhering to Title IX.
Where do you fit in as the Director of the Equity & Title IX?
I oversee compliance with federal regulations and state regulations for Title IX. This includes stalking, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and more. I also receive all reports around issues of equity–that being protected classes. For example, if you are discriminated against based on your age, you could file a complaint with my office. I’m there for the entire investigative process and work to ensure you are safe and comfortable.
Is there a specific major someone should seek for this line of work?
A master’s degree is a prerequisite for most positions in this field along with experience in counseling, social work, or human resources. You have to be trauma-informed and trained to have difficult conversations with all parties about their rights, policies, and procedures. You’ll also see the job descriptions are changing to be law degree preferred. This is often seen at larger institutions such as UCLA.
For yours truly, I was led to this line of work with my master’s degree, sexual assault certified advocate training, and all the things I did in grad school. I was always volunteering my time to build my résumé. But no, there is no degree to be a director of Title IX.
What other advice would you share with someone who wants to work in this field?
I would ask them, “Are you an advocate, an administrator, or an educator?”
An advocate gets to pick sides. If you are passionate about one cause and don’t see yourself as neutral or multiparty, there’s a space for you to work in an advocate office. Berkley has a robust advocacy office.
If you are passionate about people and want to help them navigate healthy relationships, sex education, domestic violence, and give people the skills to navigate these areas, then you’re an educator. Sexual assault education is a growing field with a few institutions that even have Sexual Assault Prevention Educators.
Are you an administrator? A champion of process and policy? Multiparty? In my role, I’m an administrator. I have no position besides you knowing your rights and advocating for your rights. I also ensure the university follows the process with integrity and that my staff is trained and my community is knowledgeable.
I have a master’s in counseling and am a trained sexual assault advocate. If someone experiences sexual assault in the community, the state provides you with an advocate to navigate the processes. Typically you can get this free training from the county. Normally they’re called the San Bernardino Sexual Advocacy Office. It’s 60 hours of training over 8 weeks. It was life-changing in my ability to volunteer and help folks. They also helped me see a whole other side of what’s going on in our community and how to get things done. If people are interested in this, please meet with me and I will get you connected.
“In this work, I also get to see people go on to graduate who experienced horrible things and see people who did horrific things grow, learn, and change.” — Erica Moorer
The university added the word “Equity” to the department name in 2020. What was the reason for the change?
So, 2020 happened and we have a year of Covid-19. And at the same time as we’re trying to figure out what the pandemic means, there’s immense civil unrest around identity and Black Lives Matter, specifically. There’s also a lot of Asian hate crimes happening as early as March and April of 2020–not only recently. We had a hard conversation and I worked with others and it was determined that this change in policy and procedure was needed now for our community. The office made the change to the “Office of Equity and Title IX” in August 2020.
I also want to highlight the importance of all the student advocacy throughout the summer that led to university-wide dialogue about how we navigate issues of equity in our community. This advocacy was heard and definitely played a role in the expansion of the office.
What impact has the change had on your work?
It’s opening up my eyes to parts of the community that are doing great and where it needs growth. I think about how I can create inclusive environments for everyone. These are the things I grapple with to make strategic goals for the office and make sure faculty, staff, and students are seen, safe, and feel like they belong here at the University of Redlands. The university has had a hard year that continues to influence how people see themselves. And rightfully, so–The times we live in are incredibly intense where we no longer are agreeing to disagree. It all requires new skills and approaches to being in a community together.
You deal with extremely sensitive subject matters. What are the most challenging parts of the job?
This is a confidential position, so I carry the worst days of people’s lives with me.
And the politics of this field are challenging. The Trump presidency and administration rolled back some Title IX policies. And now Biden has already made promises to change and undue policies after the Trump administration. This can lead the community to believe we are not consistent. The Betsy Devos and Trump guidance was a hard place for everyone no matter their political affiliation. Some of those guidelines were just . . .<pause>. . . we just couldn’t believe it was happening.
Those would be the challenges, but, I’m proud to say I work at the University of Redlands and have the support that I have.
That sounds very difficult.
Yes. And sometimes I meet with people and they say, I don’t want you to process their complaint after they told you something horrific. But you want to empower someone to make that choice for themselves — This isn’t about you. So, how do you go home and make spaghetti after that?
So, how do you?
I have a core group of friends I can go to and cry. I call them up and say, I can’t tell you anything about what happened today, but can you figure out food and an activity? But, I also believe in humanity and the ability to bounce back. I empower people to make their own decisions. That’s how I keep my peace.
Let’s talk about the rewards of this work.
In this work, I also get to see people go on to graduate who experienced horrible things and see people who did horrific things grow, learn and change. I really believe I’m making a change in the world. I cried for this. I studied for this. I volunteered for this. This is my dream job and I believe in it.
For more information about the University of Redlands Office of Equity & Title IX or to request training, please visit their resource page.