Administrator La Shonda Coleman poses at her home in LA County on Jan. 20. Coleman said she looks forward to working more with faculty and staff as the University Title IX Coordinator at Pepperdine. Photo courtesy of La Shonda Coleman
La Shonda Coleman now serves as associate vice president and University Title IX coordinator, expanding upon her previous role as Title IX coordinator for students, according to a Jan. 13, email to faculty and staff.
In her new role, Coleman said she will continue to oversee the University’s response to student issues related to Title IX and ensure the University complies with federal guidelines for the program, which administration updated in August 2020.
Additionally, Coleman said she will now oversee all Title IX sex discrimination complaints involving students or employees, which was formerly Lauren Cosentino’s role. Cosentino now leads fundraising efforts as the vice president of Advancement and chief development officer. Under Title IX, sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
“At the heart of it is building relationships across the University,” Coleman said. “From our students to faculty and staff to really help our community embody this sense of a shared responsibility to address these issues.”
Working more with faculty and staff to provide response and prevention education for gender-based violence under Title IX is a key aspect of Coleman’s new job, she said.
Coleman said she looks forward to continuing the Step Up Leadership Program to Prevent Gender Based Harm, a six-week initiative designed to educate student leaders about gender-based harm and prevention, Title IX, Pepperdine’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and available resources and supportive measures.
“One of my goals in coming to Pepperdine was to develop a leadership program for students to help students,” Coleman said. “[Students] can then share with their peers what Title IX is and ways to step up to prevent harm from happening, or, should someone experience or disclose harm, they could be in a position to respond well to their peers and direct them to the resources they may need.”
The second cohort of the program ran in the fall of 2020, with around 16 Seaver students from a variety of campus organizations participating. In future semesters, Coleman said she hopes to develop a graduate student track and a similar program geared towards faculty and staff.
“This is an opportunity to learn more,” Coleman said. “I believe it is important for everyone to have this information, and there’s some folks who may want to step up to do even more.”
Students interested in joining the spring 2021 cohort, taking place March 2021, can contact Cassie Horton, senior care manager for Title IX.
Coleman also oversees the Resilience Informed Skills Education Program, which provides both “individual and small group coaching sessions to support student wellbeing, connection and success,” Coleman wrote in a follow-up email. This program will begin again Feb. 15, and students are welcome to join for free by contacting Natalie Hagedorn, operations manager of Title IX.
Another continuing role for Coleman is leading the Student Care Team, which offers “interventions and support to students that experience crisis or are in need of assistance accessing services on or off campus,” Coleman wrote.
In her new role, Coleman said she also hopes to increase training for faculty and staff on how to respond to Title IX disclosures in an impartial, trauma-informed manner. She will also work with the Human Resources Department and senior administration to support faculty and staff who may experience a Title IX-related grievance or be accused.
“Prevention education is key,” Coleman said. “We want to get ahead of the situation through education and training. And so we will be expanding those efforts to provide training and education to faculty and staff and continuing to grow the outreach and education prevention for students.”
Additionally, Coleman said she wants to work with professors to emphasize in their syllabi that disclosure of Title IX issues is welcome and to help create spaces amenable to sharing comfortably.
Coleman said she encourages all Pepperdine community members to meet with her if they believe they have experienced any form of sexual misconduct, as she can inform them of their rights and options moving forward. She emphasized this does not necessitate filing a formal complaint or starting an investigation.
“What I have learned is that students may fear that if they meet with me there needs to be an investigation,” Coleman said. “That’s not the case. It gives me the opportunity to share with them about all of their resources, supportive measures, and reporting options. And that person would be empowered to choose a path that is meaningful to them.”
Supportive measures can include no-contact directives, a mutual agreement in which both parties do not interact that isn’t legally binding — there is no presumption of guilt or investigation in this case. Coleman said supportive measures are also available to those accused, such as connecting them with the counseling center.
“My hope is everyone in our community feels welcome and safe and empowered to come forward if there are any concerns,” Coleman said.
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