SCHENECTADY -- The Union College official who oversees investigations into alleged sexual misconduct, Melissa Kelley, is stepping down this week to take a position at the University at Albany, according to a message sent to the Union College community last week.
Kelley joined Union in 2015 as the school's first full-time Title IX coordinator, a position tasked with ensuring students aren't discriminated against on the basis of sex, including investigating allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
The campus message said Kelley was set to depart Friday for a position in the School of Public Health at the University at Albany. During her tenure at Union, Kelley oversaw the college's response to federal guidelines that were dramatically changed under both the Obama and Trump administrations, working to establish the school's uniform sexual misconduct policy.
“Melissa worked diligently to increase our campus's awareness of their rights and responsibilities around Title IX and sexual misconduct issues,” according to the campus-wide message.
But Kelley was also named in a pair of recent lawsuits alleging Union officials mishandled accusations of student sexual assault and rape. The lawsuits, filed by Manhattan-based attorney Andrew Miltenberg on behalf of two separate women, accuse Kelley and other college officials of failing to protect students who lodged sexual assault allegations against other students or to carry out fair and thorough investigations of the claims.
The message announcing Kelley's departure said a subsequent message to the school community would outline how the position would be filled while the college searched for a replacement. Union spokesman Phil Wajda said those details would be shared with the campus this week.
In the message sent last week, Union Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka highlighted the many educational sessions Kelley offered to students, faculty and staff throughout the year and said the college experienced a “significant increase” in reports of sexual misconduct allegations during her tenure, often cited as an indication students feel more comfortable coming forward after incidents.
In the wake of the lawsuits and student reactions to the claims, the college last year hired an outside consultant to review the Title IX policies and procedures. This year Union reconstituted a college committee of students, faculty and staff focused on safety, education and the school's sexual harassment policies.
“I have enjoyed working with Melissa in our two years together and found her to be a tireless champion for addressing sexual misconduct on college campuses,” Czajka wrote in the message.