Conversations with a Responsible Employee

Student speaking with a Responsible Employee

“Responsible Employees are individuals who have authority to take action to redress the prohibited conduct; who have been given the duty of reporting incidents of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence to the Title IX Coordinator; or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty. Responsible Employees must report allegations (and all relevant information disclosed about the incident), to NC State’s Title IX Coordinator. In addition, Responsible Employees must attend an approved training program that covers these Title IX obligations.”

— Warwick A. Arden, provost, NC State University

The Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) is home to NC State’s Title IX Coordinator. In addition to being one of the primary offices that handles training and reporting, it also houses four student-based campus community centers, including the Women’s Center, whose focus is on advocacy and support for student survivors. Training within OIED focuses on creating a diverse and inclusive campus community for reporting incidents of retaliation, discrimination, harassment and Title IX related incidents.

Mia Thompson, program coordinator for the Equal Opportunity and Equity (EOE) unit, spoke to Carlyn Wright-Eakes, the Women’s Center’s interpersonal violence prevention education coordinator, to discuss tips to support employees in responding to students when an individual discloses to them about being impacted, if they are designated as a Responsible Employee. Wright-Eakes is a Responsible Employee, serves on the NC State University Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and works  closely with EOE regarding incidents of Title IX.

Question: From your perspective, what are the main aspects that Responsible Employees should know before reporting? 

Responsible Employees (RE) should know their status and responsibilities. If a student approaches an RE for support, the RE should explain to the student what this role means and how they can help. It’s important to let a student know that you are not confidential -— meaning, you’ll have to share this information with the Title IX office. This allows the student to make an informed decision if they want to continue to share with you. Having this designation listed somewhere visible in their office can also be very helpful.

Question: What should Responsible Employees be aware of when students disclose information about harassment or discrimination? 

At the end of the day, if a student approaches you for support, that means they trust you. Your primary goal is to connect the students to resources that will support their healing and recovery. Remind them first of your RE status, and then ask them if they’d like to continue. Listen to them without judgement. Believe them. Ask them what you can do to support them, or what they might need in that moment. You may feel upset, angry, confused or helpless — try to put these feelings aside and hold space for the student to share what they are comfortable sharing. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want. Try not to pressure them by asking too many questions. Be comfortable with silence as they share. Affirm their bravery for coming forward. Let them know what happens next. Remind them that after you reach out to the Title IX office, the student will be contacted and they can choose if they’d like to respond.

Question: What if the Responsible Employee is unsure about their role?

Talk to your supervisors and departments. Reach out directly to EOE or Title IX with any specific questions you may have about how to report. Commit to learning the signs of interpersonal violence  (IPV) so you can identify when a student may be experiencing trauma from interpersonal violence. Attend a training with the Women’s Center, EOE or OIED to learn more about how to respond when a student first discloses, how to recognize signs of IPV, and ways you can implement trauma-informed practices in your classroom, office or department. Request a training with the Women’s Center or EOE for your department or office.

Question: Can someone who is not a Responsible Employee report discrimination or harassment?

Whether or not you are a Responsible Employee, if a student comes to you and says that they have experienced any form of interpersonal violence, it is your responsibility to ensure they have a support system during this hard time. You can connect the student to resources the same way an RE would (see reporting options below). You can also direct students to the Counseling Center if they want a confidential resource, or to the Women’s Center for support.

Question: What are the barriers to reporting? 

Reporting can be an intimidating process for a student, so an RE can help by reminding the student that connecting them with the Title IX office connects them to resources and support. It is their choice what they’d like to do next. Responsible Employees exist to ensure that the university is able to keep our campus safe and connect students with the support they need to succeed in their education.

Question: What changes would you like to see with Responsible Employees and reporting?

As we continue to learn more about IPV and how to prevent IPV on campus, I hope more students, faculty and staff will understand how the reporting systems work, and resources available on- and off-campus for students. I hope in the future all faculty and staff will be seen as trustworthy support systems for student survivors, will feel confident responding to disclosures and comfortable connecting students to resources.

Question: How do I file a report?

Individuals who would like to report can learn more about their options on the OIED website under Reporting Options, or by calling OIED at 919.513.0574. For additional questions about reporting, please contact OIED. The NC State community can report instances online, in person, or by calling OIED.

Individuals who would like to know if they are considered a Responsible Employee should consult Responsible Employees on the OIED website for a list of the designated individuals. If you are a member of a department or unit and need to update this information, please complete the form at the bottom of the page and send it to equalopportunity@ncsu.edu. OIED provides additional resources in the Responsible Employees brochure.

Mia Thompson is the program coordinator for the Equal Opportunity and Equity unit within the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.