New Title IX leader to raise visibility

Posted on Oct 13 2015 - 10:27pm by Zoe McDonald

Honey Ussery only moved into the Title IX coordinator’s office last week, but she is already planning to increase visibility in an office she said is running smoothly.

Ussery, an Oxford native, University of Mississippi graduate and law school alumna, has worked closely with the law surrounding sexual harassment and violence. She served as an assistant district attorney in Oxford for six years, concentrating on cases involving violence against women and children. Ussery dealt primarily with domestic violence, child sexual abuse and abuse of women on campus.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Title IX was signed into federal law to combat “discrimination on the basis of sex.” Instances of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and violence are some of what is covered under Title IX.

She said she feels comfortable stepping into her new position, because she already had ties to the University Police Department and sheriff’s department.

Ussery joins the University’s Title IX office during a time when, nationally, there is a microscope on how universities deal with issues surrounding sexual harassment.

Ussery said she feels positive about the outlets the University of Mississippi has available for people in the community.

“I think it’s just amazing, the resources the University has,” Ussery said. “The atmosphere to me here is that I feel like everybody on campus wants all students to be safe.”

Ussery’s position as Title IX Coordinator is one of many campus entities that specialize and deal with issues relating to student safety. She regularly works with UPD, the Violence Prevention Office, campus housing, the counseling center and the Office of Conflict Resolution.

“We all work together,” Ussery said. “It’s not that you come to me and you don’t go anywhere else.”

Ussery said most employees who work in close contact with students are very educated about Title IX, but she wants the ruling to reach a wider demographic on campus.

Ussery’s position involves looking at reports and deciding whether they might violate Title IX and fall under her office’s responsibility. If so, Ussery investigates the situation and speaks to the complainant, witnesses and the respondent.

“I think there’s this misconception that you’re looking for ways to put people in prison,” Ussery said. “When you actually get a case, you look at both sides. You have to see the holes. You’re not trying to put people in prison, you’re trying to do what’s right. I think that’s the mentality I want to bring to this job.”

Ussery said she holds to the University’s policies. If there’s been a violation, she sends the information to the Office of Conflict Resolution. Ussery said she also has a hand in sending the student or faculty involved to other entities, like the counseling center.

“It’s not about getting someone in trouble, it’s about keeping campus safe and being fair.”

Part of Ussery’s job involves making decisions about safety issues involving the entire campus. If she notices something with the potential to endanger the University, she must intervene. However, Ussery said she doesn’t see this often. In spite of this, she encourages anyone who has experienced, seen or heard about instances that may violate Title IX to contact her office.

“We want over-reporting,” Ussery said. “If you think it might be Title IX, give us a call.”

In her new position, Ussery said she hopes to increase the knowledge of what constitutes a Title IX violation and what violates University policy.

“I think one of the most important things is to look out for one another,” Ussery said. “Know that if anything does happen, there’s so many resources out there. Title IX is just one of many. If it’s something that they want to follow through, or just let us know, they can come see me directly, or they can go to the Violence Prevention Office. Anybody can report. If you know something’s been done, there are these resources available. If we’re not the people who can help, we can find somebody to help.”

Honey Ussery can be contacted at her office in 270 Martindale, by phone at (662) 915-7735 and via email at [email protected]