Elyce Morris, the Title IX coordinator at NAU, talked to The NAU Review about what Title IX is, its importance for people of all genders in higher education as the United States celebrates the law’s 50th anniversary, how students, faculty and staff can access Title IX resources and her love for world travel and learning.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a native of La Jolla, California, who enjoys reading, playing tennis, napping at the beach, learning new languages, walking the dogs, listening to music and volunteering in the community. Having an adventurous spirit, exploring new destinations domestically and internationally is a favorite activity of mine, and I have traveled and studied in 10 countries spanning four continents—Europe, South America, North America and Asia. In addition to my time abroad, I also have traveled extensively in the U.S. (34 states at last count). I think it is fair to say that I have an acute case of wanderlust!
This May marked 20 years working in higher education for me, where I have served in a variety of roles from administrator to in-house counsel to dean of students to faculty member. I moved to Flagstaff in July 2020 to join the NAU family.
What is your role at NAU?
My role involves ensuring the university’s compliance with Title IX and related laws. My team investigates formal sex/gender-based complaints filed by students, employees or visitors; we also facilitate informal resolution and provide training and consultation for individuals and departments. I also select and oversee the Title IX Hearing Panel and the pool of informal resolution facilitators and collaborate closely with deputy Title IX coordinators and others across the campus.
What is Title IX?
On June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed this legislation into law. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, protects individuals from discrimination based on sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity) in any educational program or activity operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of this law, and I have partnered with campus stakeholders to take a fresh look at our practices and structures and revised certain approaches designed to enhance compliance, services and response for our campus community.
Why is Title IX important in higher education?
As federal civil rights legislation, Title IX ensures that institutions of higher education create and maintain an atmosphere for learning, living, and working that is free from sex/gender-based discrimination or harassment.
What is its importance generally?
Title IX is a broad gender equity statute that protects everyone in the higher education context from unlawful discrimination based solely on sex or gender. Because of Title IX, NAU does not discriminate on the basis of sex in the education programs or activities that it operates, including admissions and employment. These protections apply regardless of how a person identifies in terms of gender.
To whom does Title IX apply?
Title IX applies to students, including prospective students/applicants and former students, faculty and staff employees (including student employees), university affiliates and campus visitors—nearly everyone in our campus community. Here at NAU, we have one overarching policy, the Sexual Misconduct Policy, that covers everyone in our community and that we implement through one of several procedures that accompany the policy.
What does the Title IX office at NAU do?
At NAU, the office charged with Title IX compliance oversight is the Office for the Resolution of Sexual Misconduct (ORSM): Title IX Institutional Compliance, Prevention & Response. Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term we use at the university to refer to any sex/gender-based contact that could violate NAU policy, and it covers sex/gender-based discrimination or harassment, including sexual assault or other forms of sex-based harassment. The ORSM ensures compliance with various aspects of Title IX (including training and remediation efforts) and provides formal investigative and informal facilitated resolution services for parties impacted by sexual harassment or other forms of sex/gender-based discrimination. We also help members of our community by offering resources and supportive measures.
How can students and employees access NAU’s sexual misconduct resources?
Students, employees or others may access resources in a variety of ways. For students, the ORSM website contains a range of resources and referrals for the Flagstaff campus and for the statewide and online campuses. Our partners in the CARE Center also collaborate with ORSM to make resources available to students. Employees and others will find resources on the website and may contact ORSM or our partners in the Equity and Access Office or Employee Relations to discuss options and what resources might be available. One important thing I want to mention is that students and employees may access resources and supportive measures even if they do not want to pursue any formal resolution process, and I hope that members of our community will feel comfortable to report and access resources without being concerned that NAU will force them to participate in any particular process.