Bentley Expands Equity and Accountability Resources
Since arriving on campus just over a month ago, director of the newly established Office of Institutional Equity Kelly Downes has been hard at work getting to know more about the students, faculty and staff of the Bentley community. In that time, she’s made it her goal to listen closely to those she’s connected with to understand the needs of the community. Under Downes’ leadership, the new office will provide reporting options, individualized support and accountability for all forms of identity-based harm including sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking, discrimination and harassment based on other identities protected by law. In the next few months, Downes plans to review policies and procedures, hire staff and make recommendations for aligning reporting systems for all forms of discriminatory conduct.
“There's a lot of really great work being done to advance equity throughout campus,” said Downes. “But bringing it all into one centralized office is really a tremendous opportunity for Bentley.”
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Downes and the Office of Institutional Equity will play a key role in that centralized support system, building on her extensive experience in higher education and as an attorney where she first cultivated a passion for advocacy and equity. “My passion for this work really began when I was an attorney serving as an advocate for those who didn’t have a voice when it came to situations of sexual or physical abuse,” she said. “Since then, equity has really been at the forefront of my career interests.”
After years of working in law and investigations, Downes shifted her career focus to higher education in 2017 when she took on an investigator role at Simmons University before joining Berklee College of Music as their chief equity officer and Title IX coordinator. For Downes, bringing her years of expertise to a campus setting was a natural next step. “I was really interested in working in the Title IX field and more broadly in discrimination and harassment to combat issues holding back equity on college campuses,” she said. “Working on a college campus was a natural progression that allowed me to build on my career interests and the things that I’m passionate about.”
In addition to her experience on a college campus, Downes is also well equipped to understand the challenges and barriers students may face when it comes to equity thanks to another role she holds — a mother of three. “I have three kids, two of whom are college-aged, so I think I have a good sense of the challenges facing college students today.” In particular, she understands what many students have gone through over the course of the pandemic in the way of balancing social lives, mental health and well-being, planning for careers and academic responsibilities.
As she continues getting acclimated to the Bentley community, Downes looks forward to building out the Office of Institutional Equity and helping students, faculty and staff know about the resources available to combat all forms of identity-based discrimination and harassment. “I'm really thrilled to be here. It’s a very exciting opportunity for me, and I look forward to having an impact on not only students but also staff and faculty as well. We intend to be a support for everybody on campus.”