Title IX coordinator here to protect students

Law against sex discrimination inspires position

Jacob Posner, Features Editor

Lab has established a position devoted to student wellness and gender-based protection.

The new wellness and Title IX coordinator, Elizabeth Noel — a lawyer with a nursing background — is here to prevent sexual misconduct and discrimination in advance as well as after the fact.

Sexual misconduct ranges from “unwanted touching, persistent unwelcome comments, emails or pictures of an insulting or degrading sexual nature” to sexual assault, according to the University of Chicago Policy on Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct. Sexual discrimination is based on sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any educational program that receives federal funding. Because the University of Chicago receives federal funding, and Lab is a part of the University of Chicago, it must comply with Title IX.

A letter introducing Ms. Noel and the new position to Lab families said she “will partner with the learning and counseling teams, physical education department and athletic coaches, school nurses, principals and students [to] develop age-appropriate curriculum, resources and training for students about their health, rights, relationships, boundaries and actions.”

Ms. Noel said her responsibilities fall into three areas: programming, supportive responses and investigations of formal complaints. While she’s looking forward to the programming aspect the most, she’s extensively trained in the other two areas, she said.

“ I am always — always — excited to work with people. Especially when they’re going through a tough time, to think of ways to help support them.”

— Elizabeth Noel, title ix coordinator

Ms. Noel said she is most excited about the programming aspect of her job because it’s proactive.

“It’s about what we can be doing and should be doing to improve ourselves as a community,” Ms. Noel said. “And knowledge is power, and I like empowering people.”

Creating Title IX education assemblies tailored to each grade has been one of Ms. Noel’s first projects. Along with a required explanation of Title IX, Ms. Noel will talk through Title IX-related situations produced by student focus groups, she said.

If Ms. Noel receives information about something that might’ve happened, she will respond in a supportive way, making sure the needs of all involved are addressed.

Upon receiving a formal complaint, however, she may open an investigation.

When dealing with formal complaints, Ms. Noel said she is “very concerned in ensuring that everyone involved is supported and treated fairly and equitably — and that includes people directly involved in the conflict as well as any witnesses, friends, family.”

As a former pediatric cancer nurse, Ms. Noel knows how the ripple effects of a crisis can affect a community — witnesses and friends of the victim are also affected.

She said she took the position at Lab because it allows her to use all parts of her background as a nurse-lawyer. After majoring in medical anthropology at Yale University, Ms. Noel went on to earn a nursing degree from the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Before coming to Lab, Ms. Noel was a resident tutor and Investigator for the Offices of Dispute Resolution at Harvard University. While she enjoyed it, she said it was time for her to use other parts of her background — and because her husband had found work in Chicago.

With her job at Lab, Ms. Noel now has the opportunity to do more of what she loves: educate and support the community.

She has a message for the U-High community: “I am always — always — excited to work with people. Especially when they’re going through a tough time, to think of ways to help support them.”