Title IX and Bias Harassment Coordinator Timothy Dunn (he/him/his)
The Mac Weekly: How are you enjoying your time at Macalester so far?
Timothy Dunn: As you can imagine, it’s kind of a difficult introduction because my first week started Feb. 12. That said, I got to see an impressive side of this community come together and I got to personally and physically see a reaffirmation of everything I believed about Macalester. So professionally, I think things are going well. I’m very happy I made the decision to come to Macalester, and I’m even managing in the 12 feet of snow that seem to be piled [up] out in front of my house.
TMW: Will you describe your role as Title IX and Bias Harassment Coordinator?
TD: The Title IX Bias Harassment Coordinator position is new. The college had a full-time Title IX Coordinator and then they changed the position and added the bias harassment component to it. The Title IX piece is Title IX compliance. That includes the programming, education and oversight of [Title IX] and then resolving cases that arise under the sexual misconduct policy.
There’s also some training involved with students, faculty and staff in order for us to stay within compliance. The bias and harassment side of it is every other area of bias and harassment. If you are discriminated against because of your race, because of your religion, because of your national origin – the list goes on – then, to file a complaint, you would start in this office and we would proceed from there.
Can you talk about your time at Trinity College and Union College [and] some of the lessons and initiatives you want to bring from those schools to Macalester?
Trinity and Union were very similar places but very different experiences. At Trinity, when I first got there, I was responsible for the social houses and Greek life. Then I spent two years doing strictly Title IX full-time and working on the cases and it was a really wonderful experience. Title IX cases are difficult but my knowledge of students and my ability to connect with students translated very well into the Title IX work. And, because I was teaching one [class] a semester and involved in some faculty activities, it was great for me to be able to then put Title IX out there and be able to explain our compliance requirements in a way that wasn’t scary and a way that wasn’t aggressive, like, ‘the Title IX police are coming for you if you don’t do this training.’ It was a much more collegial approach.
So, as far as lessons are concerned, I think the main thing I’ve learned that I do want to bring with me is that no matter who is in my office, no matter where they fall in a situation, and no matter what anyone else has to say about that person, they deserve to be listened to. They deserve to be respected and they deserve for their concerns to be addressed. I believe that you are entitled to my objectivity and to my fairness and so I treat everyone with dignity and respect and I operate with integrity as I handle cases.
You just got here this month [February], but what have you started working on, what have you been planning, what are some of your immediate goals?
The biggest things that I’ve been dealing with right now are just getting to know [Sexual Violence Prevention Program Coordinator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator] Laura [Linder-Scholer], who reports to me. I’ve been studying the Macalester policies and there are various trainings I’ve had to do on various systems. For example, I had to get trained on how to use my Google Calendar today because I’ve been using Outlook for 150 years.
As far as goals are concerned, I’m holding off on that until after I meet with the Sexual Violence Prevention working group tomorrow. There are some areas in the policy that I want to address this summer and I will sit with Laura probably sometime in May and do a strategic plan. But I want to spend some time immersing myself in Macalester’s culture first, because I need to be able to identify what’s going on. Macalester students are much more involved in this work, you seem to carry yourselves with much more care for one another than I’ve seen at other schools – and I don’t mean that in a way that’s disparaging to the other places I’ve worked, it’s just an observation. And frankly, there’s not a big party scene here, so I’ve got to immerse myself in this culture so I can then set goals based on [that] culture.
You worked at schools with big Greek life and that was your point of connection with a lot of students. How do you plan on engaging with the student groups here on campus where social life is less centralized?
The same way. The way you engage students is you walk in, you smile, and you start talking. I’ve been trying to do that a bit lately, but like I said, it’s been kind of a hectic first couple weeks. But I plan to engage the same way. I never treated Greek students any differently than I treated other students, they were just the reason I got paid. Now, everyone is the reason I get paid. I treat people with dignity and respect and I think everyone deserves to be loved and everyone deserves kindness. I’ve never met a person that I didn’t like. You know, not everyone’s on my holiday list, but I’ve never really met someone I don’t like because I’m a different kind of personality.
I’m just me, I put myself out there, I try to keep up with what’s going on – I recognize that Snapchat is a thing and it’s not Snapface or Snapbook – although I still have yet to do a snap story. I keep up and I just treat everyone the way I would like to be treated myself.
You mentioned earlier that there are more students here that are directly involved in Title IX or sexual violence prevention work. How do you plan on working with or engaging with student groups pursuing this work?
I’m available. I stay abreast of the law so any changes that may impact those groups, I’ll make sure they are fully aware of [them]. The other way I’d like to work with them is however they feel like they need me to work with them. The best way to serve people is to find out what the people want and then proceed from there.
Are there any specific areas you’d like to improve on here?
The policy is legally-sound and very well-written but there are some structural aspects to it that I’d like the working group to look at this summer. I want to be creative and find ways for the [Title IX office] to be present and for me to be visible and for me to make sure everyone knows that I am approachable. I know that coming into the Title IX office can be scary and [for] most people who come in, there’s something going on. That’s all part of getting to know people and then making them comfortable and being a presence and making sure they know they can come to me whether they are accusing or accused. This is the place to go.
Your arrival comes at a time when sexual assault prevention is a sensitive and prominent subject both on the national stage and on our campus specifically. Last year former Sen. Al Franken resigned under allegations of sexual misconduct and a particularly exposed nerve here is Garrison Keillor, who owns a bookstore that is on Macalester property. How do you think this context will inform your work here?
The way it informs my work is that now I work in a way where I pretend people are watching me – even though one cannot be too transparent with Title IX, because frankly you’re dealing with sensitive, traumatic issues. With bias harassment you’re dealing with things that aren’t for other people to be talking about. If you have a victim or someone who has been victimized, I can discuss the process publically but I’m not going to discuss a case publically.
Regardless of how our investigation turns out, people, when they come here, they need care. The need information, they need resources and they need to know that I’m present. Also, when someone is accused, it’s the same thing. I can’t dial it in, I can’t halfway do my job and not be thorough and hard working.
Can you comment, specifically, on the situation between the school and Garrison Keillor?
I believe that everyone has the right to their autonomy and their integrity. In order to support that, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for people to demean you sexually, I don’t think it’s appropriate for people to harass you sexually. I don’t ever think it’s appropriate for people to touch you without your consent or frankly, without your [invitation]. I certainly don’t think that sort of public display, the lymeric, is [appropriate]. However, not knowing Mr. Keillor, what I can also say is that he’s entitled to some process – with whomever may be dealing with that situation. After that process, I think the chips fall where the chips fall.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I’m here. Please stop by. I promise I don’t scream and I don’t run around demanding things to clarify my existence. I really am a nice person. I work hard and I’m here, for whatever you need. If you need something and you don’t know what you need, come here and we’ll talk through it and figure it out.