Lauri Chaudoin, Belmont’s new director of Title IX compliance and prevention programming, wants to encourage more conversation and awareness around campus about sexual assault.
Since starting in the position on February 19, Chaudoin has spent her time meeting with different student groups and their advisers, trying to get a feel for Belmont’s current policies and working with interim Title IX coordinator Marlene Hall to get caught up on the open Title IX cases at Belmont.
A Belmont alumna herself, Chaudoin hopes to build on the things Belmont already does well and use them to create a more unified and comprehensive approach to sexual assault prevention.
“I would like to take sort of a social awareness approach to sexual assault. We need to focus on the do’s and dont’s of sexual assault of course, and inform students about the legalities of it, but I think the most important thing is to inform from a character standpoint, as far as respecting your classmates,” Chaudoin said. “Sexual violence and non-consensual activity are never acceptable.”
Chaudoin believes Belmont can best accomplish this goal by streamlining a process across all of the university’s different departments.
“We’ve got all these different components that kind of play into Title IX across campus — counseling, security, student life and residence life — but it seems like we could have more unity when it comes to Title IX and all those various departments,” she said. “I would love to build a unified front with all the various departments, to address Title IX issues, especially prevention, and to streamline our response. But from everything I’ve seen, they’re doing a great job and they’re in compliance with Title IX.”
Before taking the job at Belmont, Chaudoin spent 10 years running her own legal practice. She primarily focused on employment law, especially harassment and discrimination. That’s where she first learned about Title IX. The topic was especially interesting to her because her daughter is getting ready to go to college.
Chaudoin stumbled upon Belmont’s Title IX position opening after realizing there were no teaching positions that matched what she wanted. Belmont was looking for someone with investigative experience, which was something she had done extensively at her legal practice.
“This job was right up my alley as far as what I had been doing for the past 10 years. So I just thought I’d take a look at it, go through the process, and see what happened,” she said.
Chaudoin’s desire to help others doesn’t end with her job at Belmont, and she spends some of her limited free time doing free or low-cost adoptions. She also works with a ministry that is building an orphanage in Uganda. She’s excited to have a job at Belmont which still leaves her with enough time to stay involved with those causes, she said.
Looking back on her time as a Belmont student, she recognizes that Belmont has come a long way toward being more open about topics that relate to Title IX issues, she said.
“I have found that, compared to some other Christian schools, our policy is much more frank and open. And I think that serves the students best,” she said. “Even though sometimes it’s awkward or uncomfortable, we need to be frank about this so that everyone understands what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
As she settles into her role at Belmont, Chaudoin wants students to know she is a resource for help after any sexual assault, even if it occurs off campus.
“I’m available to help with accommodations such as residential accommodations, academic accommodations, security, counseling. I’m sort of a clearinghouse for getting help, so even if there’s not an open Title IX matter and it doesn’t involve Belmont students, I can still provide those kinds of accommodations,” she said.
Chaudoin also wants to focus on making students more comfortable with reporting sexual assault. She’s working on making the Title IX web page more informative, as well as developing training programs about sexual assault.
“Of course the first point of entry for training is the freshman orientation, but obviously we can’t stop the training after freshman orientation. So I’ve spoken with university ministries about different convocation programs we can do,” she said.
This training will focus on raising awareness about sexual assault and also helping students become more comfortable with reporting it, she said.
“And from everything I’ve read, Belmont has consistently encouraged reporting of sexual assault. So we don’t have that environment where you sweep something under the rug, we want reporting to occur so we can offer the kinds of assistance that we have available.”