Northwest Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Juanita Simmons is leaving the University, effective Feb. 4.
University President John Jasinski announced Simmons’ departure in the Feb. 1 edition of “All that Jazz.” Simmons arrived at Northwest in August 2016 and was the University’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. She is departing due to family considerations.
“We thank Dr. Simmons for her work since beginning with the University in August 2016,” Jasinski said in the email. “As a valuable team member, she has worked tirelessly to support our University’s mission as well as our DEI efforts.”
University Police Chief Clarence Green will serve as the interim vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion on a project-based manner until June 30.
“I’ve known Dr. Simmons a long time, we’ve always talked on and off,” Green said. “I can’t say it was unexpected - it’s a little bit of both. I did not know this would be the time frame nor did I know I would be the person put into this position.”
Green has been charged with the tasks of continuing to strengthen the culture of diversity, equity and inclusion at Northwest. He will also analyze the structure of the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, recommending potential changes.
“It is something I am very grateful for, I’m honored to do, it’s something I am very passionate about,” Green said. “I think I can assist in the short time frame that this has been assigned to me.”
The Northwest Board of Regents voted to create the position alongside the coordinator of diversity and inclusion role in April 2016 as an effort to improve the University in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The approval also transitioned diversity and inclusion issues away from the Office of Student Affairs umbrella, according to a press release published when Simmons was hired. Previously, there was the Office of Multicultural Success.
Six employees originally worked under the DEI vice president as part of the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, including the director of diversity and inclusion, director of equity and accessibility, two coordinators of diversity and inclusion and two coordinators of equity.
According to the University’s online directory, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Justin Mallett works alongside Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Adam Gonzales. Pat Wyatt serves as the coordinator of accessibility.
The director of equity and accessibility and both coordinators of equity positions are vacant. A secondary diversity and inclusion coordinator position is also vacant. Northwest is not accepting applications for any of the vacancies, according to the University’s employment opportunities listings.
Under the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, the director of equity and accessibility serves as the Title IX coordinator. Since nobody holds the position, Husch Blackwell senior counsel Demetrius Peterson serves as the interim Title IX coordinator.
Peterson has experience advising universities on Title IX, Title VI and Title II.
As a result of Simmons’ departure, Peterson will report directly to Jasinski until June 30. Vice President of Student Affairs Kori Hoffmann will support Title IX on a local level.
“It is imperative that we continue focusing on our University’s bright future as the work of DEI is a key ingredient to our future success,” Jasinski said.