The 2020-2021 school year has already brought along many changes. Some have been easy, such as the introduction of Harvest Table at Cheney Dining Hall, while others have been hard, especially surrounding the topic of COVID-19.
However, a new positive change to add to the list is the welcoming of a new staff member, Erin Leeper. Leeper is joining the staff as the new Director of Non-Discrimination Initiatives/Title IX Administrator & 504 Coordinator.
Leeper completed her Master’s Degree in 2011 here at Springfield College. During her time on Alden Street, Leeper had the opportunity to work in the Department of Student Affairs, focused on student conduct.
“That really began my interest in working in the student conduct field and I had the opportunity to do that at a couple of different universities and colleges,” Leeper said.
Those schools included Syracuse University, Skidmore College, and most recently Westfield State University, where Leeper served as a full-time Title IX investigator.
“Because of that work and because of the changing landscape of the work around Title IX and sexual violence response, I had the opportunity to become a Title IX investigator early and decided that was a career path I really wanted to follow through on,” she said.
Following her time at Westfield State, she was hired by Springfield College to hold an administrative position within the Title IX Department. Instead of being the investigator, Leeper will now work with the investigators and decision-makers trained on campus to navigate any incidents reported. She also stresses the importance of informing students on what the office can do for them.
“This office is tasked with the responsibility for compliance with Title IX, which is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education programs,” Leeper said. “Part of that is making sure we are doing training and educating, so students understand what their rights are under that federal law.”
As a new staff member within the department, Leeper is excited to bring new skills to the table by informing the community about what it is they do.
“I think it’s really important that this work sort of centers around Springfield’s mission and really focusing in on that Humanics in action and leaning into how we are all here to take care of others. That includes being active bystanders, making sure we’re treating folks with respect and helping people out in the aftermath of an incident,” said Leeper.
Leeper is eager to begin work with the community here at Springfield despite challenges doing so with COVID-19. She wants to still be able to hold informational meetings with students and different student groups in order to help others understand the office and what it can provide them.
“This year certainly will come with its challenges of not being able to do a lot of in person events, but hopefully we can get some good engagement through virtual programs,” she said. “Maybe doing some zoom trainings and other things via virtual means would be great, and help me get to know the student body.
“What we want is to really empower our students to be able to take on some of the work and responsibility to help keep each other safe so in the end, you can have an enjoyable experience,” Leeper said.
The importance of being informed is what Leeper is focusing on coming into her first year in this position. Knowing what resources are available can make a big difference in the event that something does happen or things go wrong.
Leeper said, “I think a major part of this job is just making sure that students have those tools to be able to help each other out in a bad situation, or if a situation looks like it could be going in a bad direction.”
The Title IX Department is an incredible resource for students to be able to seek justice when forced into unwanted situations. Leeper is passionate about her job, and she’s here to help the Springfield College community with whatever they may need.
Photo: Springfield College