“Everything from the police to the president”: Retriever Courage consultants begin campus-wide research into Title IX processes

Cherie Scricca (left) and Jody Shipper (right) have been hired by the university as sexual misconduct consultants. Photo courtesy of Project IX.

“Everything from the police to the president”: Retriever Courage consultants begin campus-wide research into Title IX processes

For the past month, Jody Shipper and Cherie Scricca, a team of sexual misconduct consultants hired as a part of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Retriever Courage initiative, have been interviewing students, faculty and staff to gain a better understanding of the climate on campus as it relates to Title IX processes and procedures. In the coming months, they will be using the information obtained to “provide a written report of the findings and recommendations for improvements,” according to the Solicitation for Title IX Consultant Services sent out by the university on Oct. 16, 2018.

As noted in a previous article, Shipper and Scricca are part of a larger firm called Grand River Solutions, founded in Nov. 2018, which aims, according to its website, “to achieve a level of compliance and reporting consistent with the spirit of the law while also gaining significant measurable improvements in efficiency and process.” Prior to joining GRS, they owned and operated the non-profit Project IX, which had the same goal. They also both have experience working at universities in Title IX and admissions departments. Shipper cites this as one of the reasons that they are equipped to provide suggestions to institutions; they have experienced Title IX cases from an administrative perspective.

In an effort to learn more about the university, Shipper and Scricca have held two public information gathering sessions in which they have invited input about how to best address sexual misconduct on the UMBC campus. They have also conducted private meetings with student organization representatives and have invited anyone unwilling or unable to participate in these sessions to reach out via a Google form. As of March 1, when The Retriever spoke with Shipper and Scricca, no one had used the form. Along with conducting these interviews, their research also involves reading “all documents that we can get our hands on related to the process or related to education and training,” according to Scricca.

They are looking to use these interviews to gain a full understanding of what solutions will be most effective at UMBC. They expressed their tendency to “craft something that’s doable,” offering university-specific and nuanced suggestions. “What works for one school might not work for another,” Shipper explained. “An itty bitty school in the middle of nowhere? Their needs are different.” In hearing the perspectives of “everything from the police to the president,” as Scricca summarized, the team hopes to get as close to a full picture as possible of UMBC’s campus culture.

Shipper and Scricca expressed a particular interest in investigating how information regarding sexual misconduct is communicated between administrators and students. They noted that, while information may be readily available on UMBC’s websites, that information has no value if no one knows where or how to find it. At this point in the process, Shipper and Scricca were not able to make any immediate suggestions to remedy this situation.

Shipper and Scricca’s work is focused solely on issues directly related to Title IX. Therefore, despite campus-wide concerns regarding the UMBC police department, they will not be working with campus police, except on matters pertaining to Title IX investigations. Additionally, Shipper and Scricca will not be advising UMBC on its rulings in any prior Title IX cases; rather, they will be focusing on conducting “a comprehensive review and assessment of current University processes, policies, procedures and practices regarding prevention efforts and response to campus sexual misconduct and interpersonal/relationship violence,” according to the Solicitation for Title IX Consultant Services.

After their research is complete, Shipper and Scricca will submit a final report to the university detailing their findings and suggestions. UMBC is paying Shipper and Scricca $55,000 for their consultancy work.

Julia Arbutus contributed to this article.