USF’s Title IX office has found a new coordinator, Jess Varga, who officially started on Jan. 7.
Varga has six years of experience in Title IX-related roles. She has worked as an investigator, hearing officer, process advisor and appeal board member at colleges and universities throughout the country. Most recently, Varga worked as the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Services at South Seattle College.
As coordinator, Varga is the primary on-campus enforcer of Title IX, legislation that passed in 1972. Title IX used to primarily cover gender discrimination in high school and collegiate sports. Its focus has shifted over the years to sexual assault cases on college and university campuses.
Varga was drawn to the position for a number of reasons. She said she was inspired by the University’s social justice oriented mission and its connection to Title IX.
“It’s about equity and access for students, to make sure that they are not being denied participation in their education because of their gender identity,” Varga said.
The location of USF was also important for Varga. “Seeing the opening here at USF [and] knowing that it has a real social justice mission [influenced my decision],” she said. “Also, for it to be in a city that really provides a lot of opportunities for students and employees to engage in that social justice work was really meaningful to me.”
Varga’s position was vacant after Leighia Fleming left in June 2018. Dr. Susan Christopher served as the interim Title IX coordinator until Varga was hired.
Varga has jumped right into her new role this semester. She has started by working with her staff to identify Title IX-related challenges at USF and create policies to address them.
One of these challenges is ensuring equal access to USF initiatives by increasing student representation. Currently, there is a task force which meets monthly to discuss sexual assault prevention strategies and education. The group currently includes two permanent spots for USF students. In order to further address equity issues at the University, Varga would like to create a separate action committee of students to work with her.
Additionally, Varga wants to look at bystander intervention programs in order to educate students and staff about how they can support survivors.
Bystander intervention programs teach students how to intervene and stop a non-consensual sexual encounter.
Doug Padron, who oversees Title IX compliance for USF athletics as senior associate athletics director, met Varga at an orientation meeting only two weeks ago, but said that he has confidence in her. Padron was impressed by Varga’s years of experience and skills. He said he got the impression that she would be able to relate to students.
“I think that she’s a wonderful hire and I’m very excited to work with her,” Padron said.