Yale News

Elizabeth Conklin, the inaugural associate vice president for equity, access, and belonging, stepped into the role of Title IX coordinator earlier this month. Conklin will serve as Yale’s leader in sex and gender discrimination and harassment prevention. 

Conklin’s new role was announced in mid-December by University Provost Scott Strobel and Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews. Stephanie Spangler, who currently serves as the University’s COVID-19 Coordinator, previously held the role for over a decade. Spangler will continue on at Yale in her current COVID-related position, while Conklin will take on the duties of the Title IX coordinator while continuing on in her equity and inclusion role.

“I have a big vision that guides my work,” Conklin told the News. “Which is to work towards a campus environment where there is no longer any form of discrimination or harassment.”

Title IX is “a federal law that protects people from sex and gender discrimination in educational programs and activities,” according to the Title IX page of the University’s Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention website. As Title IX coordinator, Conklin is responsible for overseeing the deputy Title IX coordinators, organizing resources and designing campus-wide training to prevent sex-based discrimination and sexual misconduct. 

There were 94 complaints of sexual misconduct on campus between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2020, the most recent dates available on the Yale Provost’s website. Conklin said that she wants to make sure there are “robust” resources and clear policies and procedures in place so that any student who is met with discrimination or harassment can feel supported and heard.

Strobel and Goff-Crews wrote in their December announcement that the beginning of the year provided an “optimal time” for Conklin to transition into the new role, due to Spangler’s growing responsibilities as Vice Provost for Health Affairs & Academic Integrity and University COVID-19 Coordinator, and Conklin’s “impressive progress” on programs to address harassment and discrimination. 

Goff-Crews told the News that she is grateful for Spangler’s “exemplary Title IX leadership” and that there has been “significant progress” under her direction. Goff-Crews added that Spangler helped form the University-wide committee on sexual misconduct, raised awareness about SHARE and began the Community Consent Educator program for Yale College. Spangler also led the University’s participation in the Association of American Universities’ 2015 and 2019 surveys on sexual misconduct which provided evidence that sexual harassing behaviors have reduced on campus. 

“She helped create and enhance the infrastructure we know today: an infrastructure that is set up to maintain and strengthen educational, working, and living environments founded on mutual respect.  As a result, campus awareness is very different today,” Goff-Crews wrote to the News. 

The announcement also said that Assistant Provost and Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator Jason Killheffer will continue to work on the University’s Title IX programs while also continuing to collaborate with Spangler on “other academic integrity matters” in his role as assistant provost. 

“[I am] really thankful for the extremely strong foundation that Stephanie Spangler built, and really excited to continue to work closely with Jason Killheffer,” Conklin told the News. “He has been helping to lead this work for a decade at Yale and he is a really important resource and leader in this work.”

Killheffer wrote to the News that his main responsibilities include overseeing the deputy Title IX coordinators, addressing concerns from the community, collaborating with campus partners and evaluating current programs. He is looking forward to “continuing and expanding” on his work with Conklin. According to Killheffer, he and Conklin have worked together before on the Connecticut Title IX Coordinator Coalition and in bringing together the Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility with the Title IX Office.  

Conklin came to Yale in 2020, but she previously worked as the associate vice president of the University of Connecticut’s Office of Institutional Equity and as their Title IX coordinator and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, according to a Yale News press release. Before arriving at Yale, she also co-founded the Connecticut Title IX Coordinator Coalition alongside Spangler. 

Spangler wrote to the News that it had been a “pleasure” to work with Conklin over the years, and that they often shared ideas and experiences with each other when they had been fellow Title IX coordinators, Conklin at University of Connecticut and Spangler at Yale. Spangler was “delighted” when Conklin arrived as associate vice president for equity, access, and belonging, and is now excited for her to step into the Title IX position at Yale. 

“I am so grateful — the university is so fortunate — that [Conklin] will now assume this additional important responsibility,” Spangler said.

At Yale, like at the University of Connecticut, Conklin is now responsible not only for Title IX issues, but also for discrimination and harassment of any kind, including in regards to race, religion, sexuality and disability. Conklin said that she feels it is important to recognize that students do not fit singly in any one of these boxes.   

“We’re thinking about folks of intersecting identities, and that really impacts the approach to any individual student, how best to support them,” Conklin said.

In assuming her new role, Conklin’s initial priority is to create conversation about identity, community and important issues on campus by meeting with students, faculty and staff to hear their perspectives and experiences. Developing a base and relationships with those who are already involved with Title IX work will be key in deciding where programming must be enhanced or clarified, she said.  

One thing that is special about Yale, Conklin added, is the level of student engagement on Title IX-related issues. Conklin recalled that a highlight in her work so far has been having conversations with students and working with students involved in these efforts. 

“Learning will really guide how I approach the work moving forward,” she said. 

An initial project Conklin hopes to pursue is enhancing Title IX’s online presence at Yale. In this digital age, Conklin said, the internet is where students will most likely go first for resources. It is therefore important for the website to be as clear as possible so students have a place to turn and learn about next steps, she said. 

As for any big policy changes, Conklin said she wants to wait and keep a “close eye on what’s happening nationally.” In April there are supposed to be revisions to the national Title IX regulations, which may affect Yale’s procedures and policies. 

“What I can say is regardless of what happens in Washington … our commitment to continue to provide support and prevention is unwavering,” Conklin said. 

Taking on the role of Title IX Coordinator “dovetails” with Conklin’s responsibilities as associate vice president for institutional equity, access and belonging, she said. She plans to continue to work closely with Spangler and Killheffer in aligning Title IX with Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, and Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination. 

She will also continue to work on prevention and response strategies for other forms of dicrimination and harassment, on increasing accessibility on campus and on the Belonging at Yale initiative. She told the News she is excited for Killheffer and the Title IX staff to work closely with the staff from the Student Accessibility Services, the Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility and the Office of LGBTQ resources.

Students and faculty can find more information about the University’s Title IX policies on the Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention website and contact the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center’s 24-hour confidential hotline at (203) 432-2000 for information and support regarding sexual misconduct. 

Tigerlily Hopson covers diversity and inclusion at Yale. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a junior in Berkeley majoring in English.
Sarah Cook is one of the University editors. She previously covered student policy and affairs, along with President Salovey's cabinet. From Nashville, Tennessee, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.