Nicole Merhill has been named Harvard’s Title IX officer, and William McCants has been named director of the Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution (ODR), the Office of the President and Provost announced today.
Merhill, formerly Harvard’s deputy Title IX officer, brings more than 15 years of civil rights experience, including on Title IX issues. McCants, who previously served as the ODR’s lead investigator, brings more than 15 years of civil rights experience to the post. Merhill and McCants will report to Deputy Provost Peggy Newell.
While the administrative structure of the Title IX Office and ODR will change slightly, staffing levels will remain constant.
“This is a change being made in response to feedback from the community and a desire to enable the Title IX Office to expand its menu of trainings and educational opportunities across the University,” Newell said. “In their time at Harvard, Bill and Nicole have made great progress in spreading awareness of Harvard’s Title IX policy, and responding meaningfully to reported incidents. I am confident that they will continue that trajectory and work tirelessly to assure that Harvard is a safe and inclusive place for all members of our community.”
Prior to joining Harvard last year, Merhill served as program manager for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Boston, where she was responsible for oversight, management, and strategic planning. Prior to serving on the OCR’s senior management team, Merhill investigated and resolved more than 600 civil rights complaints and was regularly contacted by school officials, students, and parents for guidance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and English from Purdue University and a J.D. and master’s in education law from the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
In her new post, Merhill will work closely with the University’s network of 54 Title IX coordinators in building expertise and designing training and educational initiatives to help prevent and effectively respond to incidents of sexual harassment, including sexual assault. She will collaborate with human resources leadership and the Office of Labor and Employee Relations to address Title IX matters, while recognizing the broader responsibilities of the human resources community in serving employees.
“I’m very interested in making sure that the Title IX Office partners with groups across the University to work to expand proactive trainings and educational initiatives,” Merhill said. “I look forward to working to develop opportunities to address the needs and concerns of Harvard’s diverse community of students, faculty, and staff.”
McCants joined Harvard in 2014. Since then, he has investigated or overseen investigation of dozens of formal Title IX complaints. McCants holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California at Los Angeles, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and masters’ degrees in criminal justice from Northeastern University, where he focused on such topics as forensic psychology and trends in undergraduate alcohol consumption, and from Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, where his thesis focused on social identity and intergroup conflict. For 15 years, he has supported his wife, Anne, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in her head of house role in graduate and undergraduate housing there.
Prior to joining Harvard, McCants worked with Merhill at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, where he investigated hundreds of postsecondary and elementary and secondary institutions for compliance with Title IX and other civil rights laws. In this position, he gained extensive experience in dispute resolution. While at OCR, he also provided investigation and resolution-related training to educators in six states.
“Over the past 2½ years, I have worked in ODR, with the ongoing input of the Harvard community, to establish a framework for investigating formal complaints of sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, in a thorough, fair, and impartial way,” McCants said. “I look forward to building on that foundation, and collaborating with the Title IX officer and others to expand opportunities to work with the community on education and prevention efforts.”