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Access and Equal Opportunity: Associate Chancellor Deanie Brown, a one-woman office

Associate Chancellor for Access and Equal Opportunity, Deanie Brown, has a busy job on campus. She investigates accusations of harassment and discrimination, consults students, staff, and faculty, provides workshops and training, and enhances diversity in employment opportunities, just to name a few of her of responsibilities.

Brown summed up her position at UIS: “I support positive campus climate through implementation and enforcement of civil rights and human rights policies.” This includes the rights of Americans with disabilities, international students, people of color, women, and LGBTQ, among other groups that create diversity on campus and can be subjected to discrimination or harassment.

Brown was appointed UIS Associate Chancellor of AEO in August of 2008. She has a Bachelor’s degree in History of Architecture and Art from University of Illinois at Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law.

While she does have a law license, she said she is not, “Practicing in a sense that most people think about with clients and court. I work closely with our campus legal counsel. So I don’t ever hold myself out as a lawyer, because I don’t want to impact that role or to claim to represent the university in a way that would be confusing or inappropriate.”

Brown said her interest in law came from her parents who she always called, “‘armchair civil activists’ because we always had that sensibility of wanting to help and wanting to give, and being aware politically. And so, even though many folks think of law school as a means to earning a certain amount of money…I really did think that it was a way to do good.”

Her passion for civil and human rights led her to Access and Equal Opportunity, a department at UIS that she runs on her own, which prevents unlawful harassment and discrimination on campus.

She said in most cases people come to see her for consultation. “It happens regularly that people might consult me for advice or with concerns, but I don’t think there’s huge incidents of discrimination and harassment on campus,” she said.

For example: “There was an incident last year when a student was transgender,” Brown said. A professor had the student before and after the change, “And that professor consulted me about what steps (if any) needed to be taken. Sometimes people are really concerned about doing the right thing.”

Brown said whenever she does receive a complaint of discrimination filed with an external agency, “I immediately investigate on my own.  And then if I cannot determine that discrimination has occurred, then I am prepared to issue that response to the agency.”

The Associate Chancellor said it is “tough” running what feels like an entire department by herself. She said she has a half time entry-level secretary, but despite the help, the bulk of the work rests on her shoulders. “I want to offer advice and consultation for many people, for people who feel harmed, for people who receive concern from other folk. All of that, in addition to receiving former complaints of discrimination or harassment, some filed with me or some filed with external agencies…there’s a lot to do.”

She said the reason for the one-person operation is due to UIS being a small, young campus when compared to Urbana-Champaign and Chicago. “Even though we are the third campus of the University of Illinois, we don’t have a researching funding base…We have a different pool of money and we’re smaller. We are still growing; we are in a constant state of transformation.”

Despite this, Brown said she does not want people to think she does not have time for them. It’s her job to make time for people with concerns on discrimination or who need consultation. “I want people, particularly students, to know that I am there for them. Even though my meeting schedule and all those responsibilities keep me busy, I’m never too busy and I want students to feel both that I’m available and that they will be heard and helped.”

Brown’s office is located in PAC 491. The office can be reached by (217) 206 – 6222 and at aeo@uis.edu.

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