New Title IX Coordinator Arrives with Unifying Message: "I am Your Partner"

Zora DeSeignora ’23, Spanish and Communications
Kiara Allison seated at desk looking across in conversation with female, who is seen from behind.
Kiara Allison says empathetic listening is a big part of her role as Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity officer.

Kiara F. Allison recently joined Widener University as the Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity officer – an important position focused on serving both students and employees. She joins the Widener community after serving as a case manager and deputy equal opportunity and Title IX coordinator at Drexel University.

Allison’s work is dedicated to educating the community about diversity, equity, and inclusion, in addition to being a support system for individuals who study and work at Widener. We caught up with her to talk about her work and interests.

Welcome to Widener! Can you explain your role and what students should know about how it benefits them?
As the university’s Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity officer, it is my role to coordinate prevention efforts, provide education and training, and to respond to reports of sexual misconduct, discrimination, and harassment. All students and employees should know I AM YOUR PARTNER. Many people have the impression that I am like a principal or disciplinarian in my role, but most of my daily work includes empathetic listening, consulting and coaching community members through sensitive situations, and providing support to individuals who may have been impacted by conduct that falls under the Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination Policy.

I also spend a significant portion of my time conducting alternative or informal resolutions, which can range from formal mediation to facilitating supportive measures such as housing reassignments or academic accommodations. So, I would love for people to contact me early and often regarding sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, and general inclusive culture incidents. Getting me involved early can prevent many issues from escalating.

Why is it important for the university to have a Title IX coordinator?
This question can be answered two ways. First, it is important because it is required. Institutions of higher education that receive federal funding are obligated to designate a Title IX coordinator, who is responsible for complying with the federal Title IX regulations.

The second reason is that, unfortunately, sometimes people do not live up to our espoused values of diversity and inclusion. In those cases, we need someone to provide accommodations and supportive or protective measures to the harmed person(s) to ensure they continue to have equal access to their work environment or educational program. We also need someone who is responsible for facilitating an impartial and fundamentally fair resolution process to remedy and address the alleged conduct. This is the role of the Title IX coordinator.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role at Widener?
Whew! Where do I begin? Since I am new to the community, I am still assessing and prioritizing campus needs. There is so much I want to accomplish and there is much work to be done, thanks to the release of the new federal Title IX regulations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and having extended interim Title IX coordinators before me. A short-term goal is to create a comprehensive Title IX roadmap by the time Widener’s incoming president assumes her role July 1. The Title IX roadmap will be a comprehensive plan for the university that outlines our strategy for maintaining regulatory compliance with Title IX, and for promoting an inclusive campus environment that is free from discrimination in all forms. I intend that some form of this roadmap will be available publicly, so stay tuned for specifics about goals and programs!

What made you want to work on a college campus?
I was heavily involved at Millersville University as an undergraduate student. I was on the executive board for the Lambda Alpha chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, INC, on Essence Dance Team, and a general member of the Black Student Union. I also worked on-campus as a tour guide, so beginning a career in Student Affairs felt like a seamless transition after college. While I no longer work in Student Affairs, I still enjoy the diversity present on college campuses that is hard to find in other industries.

Do you have any special hobbies or interests? How do you unwind?
Yes, I CrossFit about three to four times a week. I love the community and I love lifting heavy weights. Do not underestimate my strength because I am tiny! I also enjoy learning, so I listen to physics and astronomy podcasts and audiobooks during my commute to work.

Will we see you at campus events or programs?
Absolutely. Yes, you will see me around campus, including the Delaware and Harrisburg campuses. Of course, I will be at some events in my capacity as the Title IX coordinator, but I am also a member of the community, so please plan to see me enjoying all that Widener has to offer.

How can students help make Widener a more inclusive and equitable place?
My advice to students would be to remain curious. Learn about others' experiences. Learn about structural inequality. Become curious about yourself. Apply a critical eye to how you have been raised and socialized. Pay attention to your reactions to certain social or political messages. Focus on how your body feels when you hear another person share their experiences in navigating the world. Do you feel openness or contracted? And what emotions accompany those bodily sensations? In essence, learn how to be a researcher of the human experience and the social world.
 

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