By Samantha McCoy Staff writer
Barbara Johnson is the new director of workforce diversity and inclusion as well as the Title IX coordinator for Susquehanna.
Included within the Human Resources Department, Johnson said that her title revolves mostly around sensitivity training with faculty and staff in terms of diversity and inclusion, but the position of Title IX coordinator ties her to the student body.
“My position is to make sure that Susquehanna falls into accordance with Title IX, as well as assisting students with sexual assault cases,” Johnson said. “We need to do everything we can to support students. We also must be aware of frequent Title IX changes, as well as keep track of nearby colleges for possible violations and revisit our system to make sure that we aren’t doing the same. So far no issues have come up.”
Johnson was born in Harlem, New York. Both of Johnson’s parents were born in Jamaica, and since her father was enrolled in the Air Force, she was able to travel frequently. She spent most of her childhood in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She went to Mercyhurst College with a dance major and minor in clothing and textiles.
“I didn’t imagine myself in this position at all,” Johnson said. “I had heard from so many adults about their major and work, and there was no distinct connection between the two, so I decided to major in something I loved and didn’t think twice about it. I did enjoy my choice, never transferred or changed my major and continued through my original idea to completion. Then I struggled with finding a job.”
Johnson’s first job was working as the director of programming for the YMCA. She was in charge of supervising the staff, such as the fitness programs, lifeguards, daycare and after school programs and summer camps.
Johnson said that she met someone involved in a position in charge of providing access to students wanting to volunteer, which inspired her to apply for a similar position at Carlow through the YMCA. The Dean of Students there offered Johnson a new position working as the director of multicultural programs.
“I had to create the position from scratch,” Johnson said. “I began research on intercultural dialogue and diversity…I grew the position in that office by the time I left it.”
From there, Johnson spent most of her adult life in Pittsburgh, raising two sons while she worked at Carlow. She also served on the Women and Gender Studies Committee and taught an intergroup dialogue class while at Carlow, specializing in individual social identities and how they engage with each other, as well as promoting mutual understanding.
While looking for open positions, she was contacted by Susquehanna’s search committee for the diversity and Title IX positions.
“Since my position is focused in [human resources], I primarily met with faculty and staff,” Johnson said.
She added, “I met with those who would have a connection with my work in [human resources] diversity and inclusion as well as those who work closely with Title IX, such as the director of counseling and the provost. I also met with some faculty from the women studies department. After that, I had a student-led tour of the campus. It’s funny, because I see him around campus now, and we always say hi. My interview was during the summer, so there weren’t many other students around to interact with.”
Johnson is looking forward to working with Susquehanna’s campus in order to improve students’ experiences when it comes to Title IX protections.
“This is a year of transition; I’m new, we have a new public safety director and Title IX investigator and we will have a new vice president of student affairs next year. Between the three of us we have to work together to keep what is good about Susquehanna as well asenhancing areas that are weak links. My role is in [human resources], so if there are ever any instances where students need more communication from the Title IX office or they are missing out on connection, we are very open to hearing about the students’ perspective. Often adults think that communication is met, but students may feel that we missed the loop,” Johnson said.
Johnson also wants to reassure students that they will continue to be protected due to certain developments with Title IX under the current federal government.
Johnson said: “Even as the new administration makes changes with Title IX as it currently exists, we have established a process that protects students regardless of gender identity and we will not drop that even as the government does.”
Johnson added: “All current proceedings of Title IX will be protected. The only difference is that if the government decides to eliminate the Office of Civil Rights, which guides Title IX, what could happen is that we wouldn’t have a government body saying that we are in violation of Title IX, but we will continue our own process to make sure all students feel safe.”
She continued, “We will also continue to receive guidance from the Violence Against Women Act, as well as the Clery Act, which has protections against stalking and dating violence.”
In addition to these protections, Johnson said that she has had prior training with Safe Zone in regard to helping her understand the nuanced language and dynamics of the LGBTQ+ community.
“A lot of people still don’t understand the language, and it can be intimidating if you aren’t a member of the community. Some faculty on campus have signs that say ‘All different, all are welcome here,’ which is from Safe Zone,” Johnson said.
Johnson wanted to remind all student that it is important to report any and all instances of sexual misconduct.
She also emphasized the importance of friend support.
“Often, if a student is experiencing or has experienced sexual misconduct, they almost always tell a friend rather than an adult,” Johnson said.
“It may not happen to you, but it can happen to your friends, so going through training or programming can allow you to help them and make our campus safer. Go to all the preventative and educational programs around violence and sexual misconduct, if not yourself, for a friend,” she added.
Johnson’s office is located in Room 103 of the Human Resources Center, which can be found on the first floor of Selinsgrove Hall.