On Sept. 26, Justin Bell started in his new role as Wellesley College’s Director of Nondiscrimination Initiatives and Title IX/504 Coordinator, as well as a similar position at Olin College. During college, Bell initially envisioned a career in athletics, but while working with Wake Forest University’s athletic compliance office, he discovered his passion for both the “dynamic feel” of the job and the impact his work had on the community.
“What I found fulfilling, and what I took joy in … was actually working with students. Actually doing things behind the scenes … where I can see a tangible result, and helping someone through times in their life. That’s really what drew me into working in academia and also got me up everyday,” Bell said.
After some further work in and around athletic compliance, he eventually transitioned to a career working with nondiscrimination policies. His previous work in athletic compliance prepared him well for engaging equally with everyone in his current role.
“It’s about working with different types of people and treating each person, each group, each faction, each department … whoever you’re talking to, with the same amount of respect,” Bell said. “Title IX discrimination touches every part of the campus, it’s over our faculty members, out staff members, all of our students, everyone who’s on our campus. I need to be able to work with all of them.”
Bell’s role includes “no exact typical day,” but he is consistently working on establishing relationships with departments he will be working with, looking over reports and meeting with relevant parties, during which he explains the process(es) and connects them with other important resources.
“A big thing for me is education, for people to really know what the Title IX office is … It’s not just about doing investigations … or making people tell us all the things they’ve gone through … We’re not going to be prying in for details. We’re just here to make sure people are making informed decisions,” Bell said.
As for why he chose Wellesley College, Bell highlighted the dynamic nature of his colleagues’ work, as well as the energy and interest they bring to their roles.
“It’s important to be at a place where people want to be … where people feel engaged … in issues … in their campus and how things are in their campus. I love that and I feel that’s what Wellesley is,” Bell said.
Wellesley College being a historically women’s college, and much of his work being involved with sex-based discrimination, Bell acknowledged that he is especially cognizant of how being a man impacts his position as a resource for the community; but noted that his role is more as a point of connection and information.
“In regards to Title IX, my role is really to inform anyone who comes in … and to act as a liaison … They don’t need to be sharing anything with me … I’m just a piece of what someone would go through with Title IX,” Bell said. “I definitely understand that it is an uphill battle, a cis[gender] male in that positon, but I think that is something that if [people] understood the role of the office [they] would feel less anxious about.”
Bell is excited to create initiatives for students, staff and faculty to understand what is available through his office and beyond.
“Of course I come in with my own ideas … I want to implement, but you have to be humble, do more listening than talking … What would be helpful for one school may not be helpful for another. A big priority for me is trainings …,” Bell said. “If someone goes through their whole time at Wellesley and never has to meet with me, that may be a good thing. But I want people to have the knowledge, to understand … what our office can do for them.”