As UMBC continues to respond to last semester’s allegations of mishandled sexual assault cases, Jody Shipper and Cherie Scricca, the two Title IX consultants from Grand River Solutions, Inc., recently moderated an “information gathering session” as a part of the Retriever Courage initiative. There, students, staff and other members of the UMBC community were invited to share their opinions about improving the campus’s prevention of and response to sexual assault.
This session served as a successor to last semester’s listening session, which was held to allow students space to voice their concerns about Title IX processes and reporting procedures on campus. However, this event was attended by only 35 people; in contrast, the listening session attendees filled the Fine Arts Recital Hall, which has a ground-floor capacity of 252 seats, as well as two overflow rooms.
This semester’s “information gathering session” did emulate the format of the listening session, however. Attendees gave their thoughts about how to continually address Title IX and reporting procedures on campus, while the consultants listened and took notes. They were notably reluctant to respond to speakers, telling one student who posed a question that doing so was “not the purpose of this session.” They did mention, however, that they would be available to speak with attendees after the event’s conclusion.
This event was the first in which Shipper and Scricca were publically introduced to the UMBC campus. Following it, the Student Advisory Committee of the Retriever Courage initiative is inviting select student groups to interview Shipper and Scricca in small sessions throughout the coming weeks. These interviews will be used to “involve as many student voices and perspectives in this process as possible,” according to an email from the Student Advisory Committee. They will be closed to anyone not invited, and the names of student speakers will be withheld from UMBC administration.
A second “information gathering session” will also be held later in February. Anyone unable to attend or who do not want to speak publicly may anonymously submit information to Shipper and Scricca through a Google form available on the Retriever Courage website.
Shipper and Scricca were first contacted by UMBC Procurement in October 2018 as part of a search for outside consultants. Procurement originally reached out to 14 firms, among which was Project IX, a non-profit Title IX consultancy firm, which was run by Shipper and Scricca. The pair explained that they were in the process of closing Project IX, but offered their services as independent consultants. Shortly after, in November, they co-founded Grand River Solutions, along with Cassio Conceicao, Jonathan Kassa and Jerome Behar.
Scricca has worked in higher education for over 20 years, serving as the Associate Dean of Master’s Programs and Career Management at the Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, College Park from 2001 to 2005. This gives her a prior connection to the University of Maryland school system.
Shipper also has a background in higher education institutions; she served from 2004 to 2015 as “executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Southern California, where she also held the post of chief Title IX administrator,” according to her biography on the Grand River Solutions website. In 2013, 16 students filed a federal complaint claiming the school had mishandled sexual assault claims between 2010 and 2013. The investigation that followed finally closed in 2018. Also during Shipper’s tenure at USC, the school allegedly mishandled reports regarding its gynecologist, who the complainants claimed had molested and abused dozens of students over his 30 years at the school, according to CNN.
Shipper and Scricca will spend the coming months “[reviewing] current university processes, policies, procedures, [sic] and practices regarding sexual misconduct” and “[helping] determine what is working well and where UMBC can learn from other institutions’ best practices and from evidence-based research,” according to a flyer obtained at the “information gathering session.” Their findings will be presented in May.