Nicole Commissiong, assistant dean for student affairs at the UO School of Law, has been selected as the next associate vice president, chief civil rights officer and Title IX coordinator for the University of Oregon.
President Michael H. Schill made the announcement in an email to campus, highlighting Commissiong’s work in the law school and across campus to support students.
“Her experience, knowledge, and competence with the topics the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance oversees, both in letter as well as the lived experiences of our students, faculty, and staff, will help the university continue to address issues of discrimination and harassment,” Schill wrote.
Commissiong was chosen through a national search conducted by a 13-member committee, chaired by Chief Human Resources Officer Mark Schmelz. The committee included students, faculty members and staff from across the university.
“I was honored to work with my 13 colleagues on the search committee and pleased that a diversity of thought was always present in our discussions,” Schmelz said. “I was pleased we were able to invite four well-qualified finalists to our virtual campus visit that ultimately resulted in Nicole’s selection and advancement of her career at the University of Oregon.”
With two bachelor’s and a law degree from the UO, Commissiong has been a part of the university since she started as an undergraduate student and member of the UO’s track and field team in 1993. She has served as the law school’s assistant dean for student affairs since 2009.
"Nicole Commissiong has a depth and breadth of experience working with students, faculty, and staff on sensitive and important issues," said Marcilynn Burke, dean of the UO School of Law. "She has been a steadying force for more than a decade as assistant dean for student affairs. We will certainly miss her, but know she is the right person for this position in the university during this important time."
In that role she was also a deputy Title IX coordinator and appeals officer for gender-based discrimination complaints. She worked closely with students in the law school to support their success both inside and outside the classroom as well as connect them with resources and support across the university.
“When the opportunity to be a deputy Title IX coordinator came along, I took it because I thought it was important work for students and for the university,” Commissiong said. “When things around Title IX happen for students, if they’re assaulted or harassed, it really impacts their experience. I think it is really important for us as a university community to provide resources to support students and address that.”
In addition to her role in the law school and serving as a deputy Title IX coordinator, Commissiong was also a member of the committee that brought the revised and adopted Conflicts of Interest and Abuse of Power: Sexual, Physically Intimate, or Romantic Relationships with Students policy to the University Senate and was also a member of the university work group that proposed revisions to the standard operating procedures for prohibited discrimination or harassment this summer.
“There’s a real commitment on the part of the university to prevent harassment and discrimination, to address it when it happens, and that’s really important work,” Commissiong said. “When the opportunity to apply for this position came up it was really an expansion of the work I’ve been doing to support students.”
As part of her new role, Commissiong will serve as the university’s Title IX coordinator and be responsible for coordinating the university’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault.
“I am very excited that Nicole will be bringing her passion to serve students as she assumes the chief civil rights officer and Title IX coordinator position,” said Kevin Marbury, vice president for student life. “The combination of being a double Duck and then a staff member provides her with a unique but important perspective on how to create a safe and supportive environment for student success. I look forward to working with her in this new role.”
But Commissiong wants to make sure that the university community knows the office handles concerns related to any form of discrimination, not just those related to Title IX.
“I think a lot of people think of Title IX when they think of the office,” she said. “The role of the office is in large part to investigate things that would violate university policies. One of the things I’m interested in exploring is how we can build out capacity and support for things that may not rise to the level of a policy violation but certainly impact people’s experience here as students, faculty or staff.”
Commissiong recognizes that solving some of those problems will take time, but she believes solutions do exist and will require community input and engagement. As part of her work, she hopes to find more ways to involve students and their perspectives in the work of the investigations office.
“I am confident that Nicole will continue to build upon the university’s work related to Title IX and support a student-centered approach to allegations of sexual harm as well as other forms of discrimination and harassment that impede the success of our students,” Schill wrote in the announcement to campus.
Commissiong will begin as associate vice president, chief civil rights officer and Title IX coordinator on Oct. 1.
For more information about the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance and reporting concerns about discrimination and harassment, visit investigations.uoregon.edu.
—By Jesse Summers, University Communications