The hiring process to fill the position of sexual misconduct education and prevention coordinator, which has been empty for the duration of the academic year, is progressing but not yet complete.

When Beth Curry vacated the post in August because the grant-funded position lacked job security, associate dean Kerry Fankhauser said the administration wanted to have the vacancy filled by the end of October 2016.

According to interim deputy Title IX coordinator Tracy Cassalia, the search has taken longer than expected because of university President Ronald Crutcher’s decision last fall to establish the coordinator job as a permanent, university-funded position as part of his initiatives to improve the university’s handling of sexual assault.

When Crutcher committed to making the position permanent, its job description was updated to reflect additional responsibilities the coordinator will now have. Once the updated description went through an approval process with the school’s Human Resources Department, it was posted in December.

Senior Alexandra Abreu, a Spiders for Spiders facilitator and Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisor (PSMA) program leader, worked closely with Curry when she held the position and said Curry played an important role in educating members of the university community.

“Primarily, she was an educator,” Abreu said. “She was helping students understand not only what sexual assault is, what sexual violence entails, but also what consent means and how we go about preventing things before they even happen so we’re being proactive rather than just reactive.”

The additional responsibilities of the new coordinator will add to this educator role. According to Cassalia, these responsibilities include administering a new online bystander training course that students, potentially starting with the members of the class of 2021, will be required to take before or at the beginning of their sophomore year.

The new coordinator also will teach the AlcoholEdu wellness course and will be able to discuss the links between alcohol consumption and sexual violence through the class.

The hiring committee for the position recently finished screening candidates. The process now will move on to phone interviews, and Skype interviews if necessary. As is the case for hiring of other staff positions, about three finalists then will come to the university for on-campus interviews.

“We’ve had a really strong pool of applicants,” Cassalia said. “We have a lot of folks with a lot of experience with sexual education and sexual violence education, so I think we’ll have a lot of really strong candidates coming for on-campus interviews.”

Students will have the opportunity to talk to and ask questions of the candidates who come for these interviews. Cassalia said university administration would share more information about this opportunity with various student groups and through SpiderBytes closer to the interview dates.

Administration members currently anticipate the new coordinator will begin work in April, although the precise start date will depend on this new coordinator’s availability, Cassalia said.

In the meantime, Abreu said the absence of a sexual misconduct and education coordinator this academic year has resulted in additional responsibilities for faculty members and students involved in sexual assault prevention, particularly in light of last semester’s controversy regarding the school administration’s handling of Title IX complaints.

“It was hard to continue that theme of we can do something to fix this — we, each of us individually, can do something about this — but other administrators have been critically helpful in continuing Beth’s work because they all really believed in it and wanted to see it continue,” Abreu said.

Abreu cited Cassalia, Fankhauser and CAPS counselor Kris Day as having been instrumental in helping sexual assault prevention efforts on campus continue throughout the year.

Alex DeAbreu, a member of Spiders for Spiders and the PSMA program, said the student body also had increased its work toward sexual assault prevention in Curry’s absence.

“I think a lot of people were hit by [Curry] leaving the school, but I think there are a lot of organizations on campus who have stepped up kind of how they deal with things like that,” DeAbreu said. “I think a lot of the students have made this a personal issue.”

Ultimately, DeAbreu said, it is students’ continued efforts that will determine the quality of sexual assault education programs on campus.

“I think the most important thing no matter what is students being there for students regardless of who is in the position,” DeAbreu said. “If the best person on the planet gets the position, students still have to be there, and students still have to keep it as a personal issue.”

Contact reporter Savannah Wilson at savannah.wilson@richmond.edu