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Lori Makin-Byrd appointed as Title IX Coordinator

She will begin on March 27 of this semester, succeeding Secretary of the College Angela Johnston

Brandon Bell
Staff Writer

Lori Makin-Byrd, currently the Title IX coordinator at Eckerd College in Florida, will become Wooster’s first full-time Title IX coordinator and director of sexual violence prevention and response on March 27. She will assume the role of coordinator from Angela Johnston, who will remain secretary of the College and chief of staff in the president’s office.

Makin-Byrd was chosen from around thirty candidates who submitted applications for the position. These applications were reviewed by a selection committee that included two students — Tiffany Trunk ’17 and Patrick Mohorcic ’18.

Makin-Byrd said that her first priority as coordinator would be to listen to and open dialogue between students, faculty, staff and administration on the issue of power-based personal violence. She said that through these conversations, members of all groups could come to fully understand the campus culture they are trying to change.

“I’ve learned a lot from my work at Eckerd, but one of the most valuable lessons is the importance of understanding institutional culture,” Makin-Byrd said.

“I think hearing different voices and enlisting their experience and assistance is how culture changes.”

While she said she would have a better idea of the specific actions she would take once she assumed her position, she also said she wanted to work to make policies on sexual violence more transparent and consistent, and that she would also try to expand prevention efforts.

“It sounds like there’s good education and prevention that is already occurring at the College through a variety of sources,” Makin-Byrd said. “I’d like to see if there are any gaps in that education and work to fill [them] in comprehensive ways.”

President Sarah Bolton praised Makin-Byrd and also supported her plans to review and expand prevention programs.

“Her deep experience in this work and her commitment to the safety and well-being of students will make her a terrific addition to our community,” Bolton said.

The appointment of a full-time coordinator was one of the key goals that Bolton, who herself worked on the issue of sexual assault at Williams College, outlined in a campus email at the start of her presidency last August.

In addition to having representation on the selection committee, the general student body had the opportunity to interact with the candidates, including Makin-Byrd, through a series of open meetings.

Trunk, president of k(no)w and one of the members of the selection committee, said that Makin-Byrd was the clear favorite not only of student leaders, but also the students who attended the open meetings.

She said that she’d received messages from these students strongly praising Makin-Byrd over the other candidates.

Colleen Gilfether ’18, a meber of k(no)w who attended all three of the meetings, agreed that Makin-Byrd was the best candidate for students.

“She was the only trauma-informed candidate who was experienced in procedural processes of investigations,” Gilfether said. “[She was] receptive towards student involvement in holding institutions accountable.”

Trunk also shared several concerns and pieces of advice for Makin-Byrd. In particular, she highlighted her concern that Makin-Byrd only hold administrative responsibilities related to her role as coordinator. She said she felt that Johnston, outgoing Title IX coordinator, and Jess Ettell, the deputy coordinator, had both been burdened with too many additional administrative roles.

“The Title IX position is not one that really should be wearing all the hats that [the College] placed on Angela,” she said, referencing the multiple offices to which Johnston had been assigned.

Responding to this issue, President Bolton affirmed that Makin-Byrd’s position would not carry such additional responsibilities.

“[The position] does not have additional responsibilities beyond sexual violence prevention and response as laid out under Title IX,” Bolton said.

Trunk also said she hoped that there would be action on the monthly sexual assault notification system k(no)w proposed in November.

Although a timely warning email was sent out in January, Trunk said that this email was not related to their proposed system or the one that Scott Brown, dean of students, said would be piloted in “some form” this semester.

In terms of advice for the new coordinator, Trunk said she hoped Makin-Byrd would follow through with her plans to bring students, faculty, staff and administration together on the issue of sexual violence.

“I think clear and honest communication is important and [is not] too far-fetched for her qualifications and abilities,” Trunk said.

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