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Finalist for Office of Civil Rights VP, Title IX Coordinator pitches new MSU policy, shares goals

April 11, 2023
<p>The Hannah Administration on April 5, 2022. The building is located on 426 Auditorium Rd, East Lansing. </p>

The Hannah Administration on April 5, 2022. The building is located on 426 Auditorium Rd, East Lansing.

Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Editor's note: MSU did not allow photographers to attend the event.

Chandra Bhatnagar, one of two finalists for the vice president of MSU's Office of Civil Rights and Title IX coordinator position, outlined his goals for the position in a public presentation Tuesday morning.

Bhatnagar is currently the vice chancellor for civil rights at the University of California Los Angeles, where he oversees Title IX, harassment and discrimination issues.

Bhatnagar on Tuesday laid out a four-component strategy in order to increase the quality of the office’s work on a university level: effective and robust training, a “No Wrong Door” policy, community dialogue and accountability for violations of policy. 

The “No Wrong Door” policy is a strategy that aims to decrease the number of steps that a person would have to take in order to file a report.

“By having a multiple points of entry approach, if someone goes to HR, if someone goes to a professor, if someone goes to a dean … the individual that’s experienced the harm is not put in the position of having to go from office, to office, to office, to office, and the idea is that there’s no wrong door,” Bhatnagar said.

Bhatnagar’s short-term goals are varied. He said he wants to ensure all civil rights investigations are "full, fair and timely" and that the work done by the Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance Office is community focused. Internally, he wants office staff to undergo annual trauma-informed training and focus on a team-oriented approach to cases.

“Effective teams will consistently outperform individual superstar employees,” Bhatnagar said. “You play for the name on the front of your jersey, you don’t play for the name on the back of your jersey.”

As far as long-term goals, Bhatnagar stressed the importance of looking at data and analytics to develop better practices.

“Why is it that five Latinx employees in this particular department have asked us about pay issues and asked us what’s illegal and what’s not legal?” Bhatnagar said. “Maybe there’s an issue there that we need to explore more fully.” 

Bhatnagar reiterated the importance of effective training throughout his presentation and consequently stated the negative effects that poor training can have on a community and its leadership.

He advocated for creative approaches to training as well — citing a new training introduced at the University of Wisconsin involving the breaking of biases in the STEM field, specifically regarding hiring and compensation for underrepresented minorities. This training, Bhatnagar said, has been scientifically shown to produce long-term reductions in bias.

In addition, Bhatnagar emphasized the importance of a community-wide effort to achieve his goals. 

“I view the work of civil rights and human work and DEI as a collective project of every entity within the institution,” Bhatnagar said. “We can’t solely be the province of (the DEI office) or the Office of Civil Rights. It has to be a collective effort.”

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