As part of equity’s transition out of the former Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and back into Student Affairs, Will Sabio was hired as assistant vice president of student affairs for Title IX and equity.
Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker said Sabio was hired in October, but his hiring was not announced publicly until the Spring 2020 Academic Affairs meeting Jan. 10.
Sabio’s position includes investigating Title IX and Title VI reports and ensuring Northwest’s accessibility and accommodations are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Beginning the 2020-21 school year, Sabio said his office will require all students receiving accommodations from the University to recertify annually, meaning students will have to resubmit accommodations requests at the start of every school year, sometimes with updated documentation from healthcare or counseling professionals, in order to receive accommodations.
“It’s a check and balance process, as opposed to accommodations just rolling over from year to year,” Sabio said. “It should better or best serve students and help them even more so with their success.”
Sabio said the recertification process may come in phases in order to ensure a smooth transition for all students and be fully compliant with the ADA.
Before taking on the recertification process, Sabio said he wanted to familiarize himself with the community and make himself visible and available on campus. He said it will take time to build credibility and learn about Northwest’s systems, employees and culture.
“With the restructuring, I would say I’m rebuilding credibility for the area,” Sabio said. “I think it’s gone under some different leadership and certainly making clear to the community that this is a go-to area that is important.”
In addition to restructuring Northwest’s compliance to the ADA, Sabio also has the opportunity to reevaluate the University’s approach to Title IX and Title VI, which are federal laws preventing gender-based and race/ethnicity-based discrimination, respectively, in public schools.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter, which established that Title IX also encompasses sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, harassment and stalking.
Baker said when evaluating candidates for the position, he wanted someone with experience in Title IX.
“What I wanted to do is make sure we had somebody who was knowledgeable on the compliance and process side, but also can relate to students and sort of thread that needle,” Baker said.
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Sabio’s background before higher education was in human resources in New York. He entered the realm of Title IX when he became the assistant director of human resources for compliance and the Title IX coordinator at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn, New York, according to a news release from Hawai’i Pacific University.
Later, he became the Title IX investigator at Buffalo State College in August 2016, then took on the role of Title IX coordinator at Hawai’i Pacific University in January 2019.
Sabio said he felt his progression from human resources to Title IX and equity work was a natural one.
“I like the fact that it gives a voice to those who don’t have a voice. … It’s just incredibly important work,” Sabio said. “I don’t think it’s for everybody, because it can be very emotional, because you’re helping folks who’ve experienced a trauma. I just enjoy doing it because I’m helping others.”
He said his work has only grown in importance since the #MeToo movement gained mainstream attention in 2017.
“(Since #metoo there has been) more reporting,” Sabio said. “Victims feel more empowered to report, and that’s the big part. You want to make sure there’s always this pathway forward where someone feels comfortable reporting, and it’s a judgment-free zone.”
Baker said Sabio will also work to improve Northwest’s minors on campus policy and work closely with the Behavioral Intervention Team.