Jake Johnson hopes to bring fairness and insightfulness in his new position as associate to the chancellor for Institutional Equity and Compliance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Johnson started in this role on July 6, replacing Tami Strickman. Johnson said he started working at UNL as an assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs in January 2018.
The associate to the chancellor for Institutional Equity and Compliance position is in charge of ensuring UNL adheres with affirmative action, equal opportunity, civil rights and high education laws, like Title IX, Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Nebraska Today.
Johnson said he showed an interest in the new position after working closely with the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance on issues of disability and accessibility services, as well as student conduct, while in Student Affairs.
COVID-19 guidance changes frequently, sometimes daily, and that impacts the office’s efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities, according to Johnson.
Johnson said the federal government issued extensive guidance and new regulations about how to respond to reports of sexual misconduct pursuant to Title IX with a deadline to comply by Aug. 14. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved changes to its policies on Aug. 14 and are now in compliance with the new guidelines.
Incidents of racial injustice also call for greater urgency in rectifying structural impediments to equitable treatment, according to Johnson
“These are formidable challenges, but they also present exciting opportunities to do better and be better,” he said in an email. “So, I am optimistic and anxious to work with others on improving our community and shared experience.”
The changes from COVID-19, like social distancing, have also made it difficult for his office to connect with stakeholders and partners, according to Johnson.
“I want to make sure we are offering them resources in the form of insightful education, clear policy and guidance, useful and relevant data and timely access to coaching, so decisions reflect a commitment to following the law and treating people with fairness,” he said.
Johnson said the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance offers those on campus a forum to express concerns about and seek resolution for mistreatment or misconduct they may have experienced. He said the office is obligated to approach resolution procedures fairly, which starts by being neutral and impartial.
“We work hard to be thorough and fair and balance the rights and interests of the parties,” Johnson said. “I don’t think people recognize how difficult that can be, but it is so vitally important to the success of our compliance efforts.”
Nick Shell, a student conduct officer, said in an email that Johnson was his direct supervisor at UNL between May 2018 and August 2020.
“My initial impression of Jake was that he was kind, quiet, level-headed and intelligent,” Shell said in an email.
Johnson helped lead in revising the new NU Student Code of Conduct, which was approved by the Board of Regents on Aug. 14. Before it was approved, Johnson held listening sessions with several stakeholders, including students, to ensure fairness, according to Shell.
“Jake has shown service to others is important to him, both professionally and personally,” Shell said.
Shell said Johnson’s previous experience and knowledge in educational administration and law benefits him in his new position.
“His level-headedness will allow him to look at multiple sides of a situation or incident and remain impartial,” Shell said. “Jake is very familiar with campus and community resources and is constantly building bridges for students’ benefit.”
Sam Goodin, director of Services for Students with Disabilities, said in an email that Johnson brings composure and commitment to his position.
“He is fair,” Goodin said in an email. “He is analytical, but not at the expense of being personable.”
Johnson said he has a neurodiverse child with a disability, so he understands what it feels like to want and expect that they will receive every opportunity, service and experience to which they are entitled by law. However, he also said he knows what it feels like to be an administrator who is constrained by resources and trying to do their best.
“It is a duality that is hard to reconcile internally at times," Johnson said. "I think it makes me a better administrator."
This article was modified on Sept. 1 at 2:51 p.m. to clarify that Jake Johnson was Nick Shell's supervisor between May 2018 and August 2020.