By Myles Eldridge
Title IX is one of the most challenging issues on college campuses everywhere. Time and again, colleges are subject to lawsuits for handling Title IX issues incorrectly. Many feel that the federal law, which prohibits sex discrimination at colleges, is often not followed or enforced while others argue that it’s sometimes applied unfairly and at the expense of due process.
But here at Adelphi University, Allison Vernace ’13 is up for the challenge.
The Adelphi alumnus was hired in August 2021 to oversee the university’s compliance with Title IX. As inaugural chief of the Office of Community Concerns and Resolution, she’ll also handle issues involving student conduct and threat assessment.
“My early goals are learning about the [current] process for handling concerns and getting to know students, faculty and staff,” Vernace said.
The job is a homecoming for the Long Island native, who graduated from Adelphi in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology. She said her involvement as a student in many clubs and organizations led her to a career in university administration.
“I was involved in a lot,” she said. “I was a resident assistant. I think it is what made me aware of this as a field and learn how to get into those positions.”
Following her time at Adelphi, Vernace earned a masters of social work with a specialization in higher education administration from Stony Brook University. She then remained on Long Island and developed her career in higher education.
Her first job was in 2015 at Hofstra University in Hempstead. She worked there for six years as the interim dean of students, where she oversaw many departments, including campus recreation, Title IX, community standards and student leadership. Then she decided to return to her alma mater where the new Office of Community and Concerns and Resolution was forming.
“I decided to come to Adelphi because I thought that this position was a new and exciting opportunity,” she said.
Vernace will oversee the newly launched Office of Community Concerns and Resolution, which is tasked with assisting students and employees by being a point of contact for concerns about the complaint resolution process along with the university’s policies and procedures. The office was created to provide members of the university community with a safe space to report a non-emergency complaint or concern that involves harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct and to provide oversight for many channels for issue resolution at Adelphi.
Vernace said her role is to help guide students and other members of the Adelphi community through the complaint process that the office provides.
“My position as the chief of community concerns and resolution is to create additional resources,” she said. “I serve as the centralized point of contact if students and employees have any concerns about the complaint resolution process or if they have any concerns related to policies and procedures as well.”
For some, entering a new position can be nerve racking, especially a high-ranking position in administration. But Vernace said being an Adelphi alum has made it easier for her to transition into her new leadership role.
“It's been helpful,” she said. “I have a sense of the campus and I have that general knowledge of the community as a whole, including activities and involvement and opportunities for students and also resources that are available for employees.”
Her experience as an Adelphi student has also allowed Vernace to hit the ground running.
“It is nice to work with someone you know,” said Renaire Freierson, the Title IX coordinator and director of equity and compliance, a former co-worker with whom Vernace worked in the Title IX department. Vernace is now her supervisor.
Raymond J. Hughes, the executive director of Public Safety and Transportation, said, “Allison has already started building rapport with campus partners in order to centrally coordinate and standardize the complaint process and tracking mechanisms. The Public Safety Department will continue to provide support and guidance as she works closely with the campus partners to facilitate a fair, responsive and equitable conduct process for all students and employees.”
Despite the inevitable challenges, Vernace is excited for what the future holds in this new role and has a set of goals she wishes to accomplish.
“The most exciting part is being able to give back to my alma mater in a new way,” she said. “My goals include ensuring that policies are accessible and readable while also ensuring transparency and effective communication around our concern resolution processes.”