Charlotte Russell, assistant to the Chancellor Christensen, keeps UNO students safe but can’t disclose a word about the details of her job. She works in the Office of Equity, Access and Diversity and is a one-person team.
Russell, whose office is in 205 Eppley Administration Building, deals with multiple, serious responsibilities at UNO that aren’t commonly discussed. The office handles all discrimination and harassment complaints for the university, provides accommodations for faculty and staff, prepares UNO’s Affirmative Action Plan, and more.
For the past two years, Title IX reporting has taken most of Russell’s time. She said most people relate Title IX to reporting sexual assaults on campus, but it encompasses a wide spectrum of issues.
“Most of the business I get from students is not a full-on sexual assault,” Russell said. “Sometimes it’s relationship angst, sometimes it’s interpersonal violence.”
Russell catches word of these reports from many sources. The majority of reports she receives come from direct calls to her office, the Behavioral Review Team, the Omaha Police Department, the Public Safety Department and other universities in the area.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to how Russell deals with claims, but confidentiality is promised for each case.
Students affected by violence may find it difficult to cope academically. Russell can help with that.
“I never press them to do anything because it’s really their choice,” Russell said. “Some students have been able to really thrive after going through some horrific things.”
If a student feels he or she is having difficulty showing up to class due to an incident, Russell will work with the student to contact instructors about excusing class absences or dropping a class altogether.
Jessi Hitchins, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said Russell has a kind and direct personality. Hitchins said these traits are important in order for Russell to juggle many roles at UNO while still maintaining her family life.
Hitchins said all UNO faculty and staff are required to report to Russell if a student discloses that he or she has experienced violence of any kind.
Russell said when offenders are reported, it helps others from being harmed as well. She stresses she is aware that people have varying levels of comfort when contacting her office.
“We don’t ask a lot of questions,” Russell said. “I figure if you’re coming to me and discussing such an intimate thing, you’re not making it up.”
Chris Grala, a student worker and advocate working for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said Russell’s office deserves more recognition for the work it does and why the office is pertinent to UNO’s vitality.
Russell said it is important to connect with people who have been affected by situations happening on campus or related to school events. She said her office has a responsibility to make sure UNO’s environment as well as the person effected are OK.
“The real goal is to help the student, so let us help you,” Russell said.