By Lizzy Stocks
Directing the University’s policies regarding discrimination on the basis of one’s sex, race, or age is Kim Dexter, the director of equal opportunity, Title IX, and ADA compliance.
Dexter said her position was created in 2013 because a standalone Title IX coordinator was needed to take on oversight for compliance of the entire University.
Though she earned her current position almost seven years ago, Dexter has been working on campus since 2005 when she was hired as the residence director of Larned Hall. Before coming to FSU, Dexter attended the University of Maryland where she worked as a resident assistant for three years.
With an open mind about where her career path would take her, Dexter said she applied for jobs all over the country.
She visited FSU for an on-campus interview and remembers calling her mom during a break. “I really hope I get the offer here because the people are so amazing,” she told her mom.
She spent nearly the next nine years in Residence Life, before taking on the role of director of equal opportunity, Title IX, and ADA compliance.
Before her position was created, she said the Dean of Students Office and the Human Resources Office had separate Title IX coordinators for students and employees.
While the two offices still have separate Title IX coordinators, Dexter’s role specifically takes on general oversight of compliance regarding Title IX for both students and employees.
She said, “There is a shared responsibility in a lot of the work,” but her role came with the responsibilities of Title VII coordinator, Title II Section 504 coordinator, and overseeing anything that has to do with the compliance of laws and policies regarding discrimination and harassment.
Title IX focuses on sexual harassment and gender-based harassment, whereas Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title II Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
Dexter said the regulations regarding these and other laws are covered in the University’s Equal Opportunity Plan, which she is responsible for implementing, disseminating, and ensuring the community’s compliance.
The Equal Opportunity Plan is shared amongst the nine Massachusetts state universities. Dexter said it is written with the assistance of legal counsel and is “developed in such a way it is applicable to and will work for all of the different communities.”
Dexter said she is typically the investigator for complaints regarding employees, but she works closely with Community Standards, Residence Life, and University Police. She added, “We also have a very meaningful off-campus relationship with Voices Against Violence.”
She said the organization has provided direct confidential support services to students for several years. The partnership includes an advocate with walk-in office hours on campus, as well as their membership on the University’s Title IX compliance team. The organization conducts trainings on campus and also developed the University’s bystander intervention training.
Dexter said the work in her field causes “high burnout” rates because it often concerns “the very worst things that have happened in someone’s life.”
She must maintain a certain level of control while also making sure she is giving back a level of control to the individual she is speaking to. She said, “A lot of times with Title IX, the individual feels control has been stolen away from them.”
She added, “Having a net of wellness for yourself is really important.”
Despite the challenges she may face, Dexter said, “You have to re-frame the experience and you have to look at the small wins – this applies to so many different things in life. Then, you have to get right back in there because it’s important work that has to be done.”
In her free time, Dexter enjoys going to local music shows to see bands such as Darlingside and Twisted Pine. During the summers, she tries to spend time camping and kayaking with family in Gloucester. She and her wife Samantha recently adopted Grace the greyhound and regularly take her for walks and hikes.
Though she values going to concerts and spending time outdoors, Dexter said, “Cooking is a solo activity where I can check out, focus on something, and really appreciate the outcome. So, I do a lot of the cooking at home.”
A simple, yet comforting dish she likes to prepare is chicken soup with the unique addition of white beans and leeks. But, one of her favorite meals has to be blackened catfish with mango-avocado salsa.
At the turn of the new year, Dexter signed up for ASL classes and has challenged herself to learn how to play the guitar, but she said her ultimate goal for 2020 is “to continue doing the work.”
She said, “I want to be somebody who has an impact and who makes contributions, despite the stress that comes with the work. I just want to keep doing that in a meaningful way.”