College has replaced its interim Title IX coordinator tasked with overseeing incidents
of sexual misconduct on campus, but a leading faculty member says that despite
substantial spending on her and other consultants from a law firm, Oxy has yet to see any improvements
in the sexual assault adjudication process.
On Monday, Oxy President Jonathan Veitch appointed Lauren Carella, a former prosecutor in the sex crimes unit of the York County District Attorney’s Office in Pennsylvania, as interim Title IX coordinator. Veitch had hired Carella earlier this year as an independent consultant to revamp the college’s sexual misconduct policy and review its handling of past cases.
“It remains to be seen if she [Carella] can extricate herself from the President's expensive PR team of Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez and actually implement best practices for Title IX on campus,” Politics Department Chair Caroline Heldman told Eagle Rock Patch, adding: “So far, despite spending a large sum of money on this PR team, we have yet to see substantive changes to the policy, needed personnel changes, or improvements in the sexual assault adjudication process.”
Smith and Gomez are partners in the well-known Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton. Oxy hired them both this past spring to conduct an independent review of the college’s sexual assaults policy and practices for investigating and resolving reports of sexual assault on campus.
Carella, who has worked as a Title IX consultant to some of Oxy’s peer institutions, possesses “solid investigative skills, a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of sexual assault and harassment, experience in organizing and supervising multidisciplinary teams, and sensitivity to the importance of process and communication,” Veitch said in an e-mail message to campus faculty and staff Monday.
"In the York County’s sex crimes unit, she handled a full range of sexual assault cases, from initial investigation through trial proceedings and sentencing," Veitch added. "More recently, she has worked closely with Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez, the outside experts we retained to develop a new sexual misconduct policy and review our handling of past cases, in carrying out similar work for other liberal arts colleges."
Carella, whose appointment took effect Monday, replaces associate dean and professor of music Irene Girton, who stepped down because of “serious health concerns,” Veitch said.
Girton was appointed interim Title IX coordinator this past spring, after six young women held a widely publicized news conference in April about how they were allegedly raped while they were students of Occidental College and how college authorities failed to take appropriate action following their complaints.
By early May, as many as 135 Oxy faculty members had signed an open letter to the college administration, calling for sweeping reforms in the college’s sexual assault policy. Oxy subsequently came under a Title IX federal investigation for allegedly mishandling complaints from dozens of Oxy students that they were raped or sexually assaulted on campus. At around that time, Oxy launched a search for a permanent Title IX coordinator to handle gender-related discrimination issues, including the problem of sexual assault on campus.
Correction: This article has been modified since it was originally published. The initial version incorrectly stated that Oxy's newly appointed interim Title IX coordinator Lauren Carella is a partner in the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which, in turn, was characterized as a public relations firm. Carella has never been a partner or employee in Pepper Hamilton.
Related: Oxy's interim sexual misconduct policies and procedures—letter to the campus community from President Veitch.