Civil rights attorney Catherine Spear will assume the newly created position of vice president for equity, equal opportunity and Title IX, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Felicia Washington announced in a Universitywide email Tuesday. Spear will manage USC’s equity efforts and compliance with civil rights laws as the head of the Office of Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX, which will replace and combine the existing Title IX Office and Office of Equity and Diversity.
“By unifying these functions under her leadership, we will be able to combine the existing support, investigation, education, outreach, and compliance functions into one location,” the email read. “This integration should increase the accessibility, consistency, and effectiveness of University’s efforts to promote a safe and non-discriminatory living, learning, and work environment.”
Spear will oversee the investigation and prevention of misconduct relating to legally protected classes, including race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and manage USC’s Affirmative Action Plan and Equal Opportunity Report. She will assume the role following former Executive Director of OED, Title IX and Office of Conduct and Professionalism Gretchen Gaspari’s departure from the University in June.
Gaspari, whose tenure began in 2016, oversaw the Title IX Office amid the fallout of the investigation involving former campus gynecologist George Tyndall, who engaged in the sexual abuse and misconduct of more than 600 women. Following multiple investigations into the University’s handling of Title IX complaints, the Office of Civil Rights under the Department of Education determined the University had “failed” its students in its mismanagement of these complaints and mandated USC provide plans to restructure its procedures and improve its record keeping by April.
The University signed an agreement with OCR, who will be monitoring the University for the next three years to ensure federal compliance, in February agreeing to carry out nine key reforms. These initiatives include a newly structured Title IX Office and proper centralized tracking of Title IX reports. Other reforms to be reported to OCR by July 15 include the review, training and guidance of Title IX employees.
Before Spear assumes her responsibilities in the fall, senior investigator Lauren Helsper will serve as interim Title IX coordinator. As part of its restructuring process, the University will also reform the Office of Conduct and Professionalism, which oversees nonprotected class matters.
Spear previously served as the Associate Vice President of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights at the University of Virginia, following her role as the first full-time Title IX Coordinator at Stanford University. Before joining Stanford, she worked as the chief attorney and later director of the Cleveland office of OCR for 19 years.
“She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, and I look forward to adding her expertise to our team of dedicated campus professionals in helping USC continue to confront discrimination in all of its forms,” the email read.