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Chopp Letter to Swarthmore Community 07-18-2013

Chopp Letter to Swarthmore Community 07-18-2013

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Published by Tyler Kingkade
Swarthmore College president Rebecca Chopp sent a letter to the campus community Thursday laying out planned reforms to combat sexual assault.
Swarthmore College president Rebecca Chopp sent a letter to the campus community Thursday laying out planned reforms to combat sexual assault.

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Published by: Tyler Kingkade on Jul 19, 2013
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07/27/2013

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 July 18, 2013 Letter from Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp
Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,I write to share with you an interim report presented by Margolis Healy &Associates (MHA) on the College’s response to sexual misconduct and, basedon MHA’s recommendations to identify specific actions to put in placeimmediately to help create a safer and more supportive environment for allstudents, including survivors of sexual assault and harassment. In May, Iasked MHA to provide, as soon as possible, some immediate actions wecould implement as we await their final report. The interim report (PDF)makes those recommendations, and this letter suggests initial steps we cantake this summer and in the early fall.As is true at many other schools around the country, we undertake thisimportant work in the midst of a sea change occurring related to the federallaws and regulations governing how colleges and universities respond tosexual misconduct.At Swarthmore, we deeply value each of our individual members. We share astrong sense of interconnectedness, of mutual respect and shared purposeas an academic community. When individuals are harmed, we must respondquickly and with our full support. When our community is not providing theright environment for academic and social flourishing, we must fix it. Thefact that we are not perfect and must take corrective actions can lead toeither cynicism or to change. I ask you now, as a member of this community,to join us in working for change.Our common goal must be to prevent all forms of sexual abuse, assault,harassment, gender identity violence, and intimidation so our students maythrive in what is one of the most rigorous and creative undergraduateprograms in this country. One incident is one too many on our campus. Weknow, however, that sexual misconduct does occur at Swarthmore and in theworld at large; thus, we must take strategic steps to prevent it, combat it,adhere to due process, enforce sanctions when it occurs, and providesupport to survivors. This spring, I sought a comprehensive, independent review of our currentpractices, programs, and personnel related to sexual misconduct in order tobetter understand their efficacy and to make improvements in this criticalarea as quickly as possible. For this letter and the report itself, sexualmisconduct means sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault,intimate partner violence, stalking, gender identity violence, and all forms of sexual and gender violence.
 
In May, MHA, which specializes in campus safety, security, and regulatorycompliance, began an independent, thorough review of all of the College'ssexual misconduct policies and procedures. I also announced in May theformation of an internal Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, includingstudents, faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Managers. This taskforce, which began its work this summer, has been charged to look carefullyat how the College is implementing the existing and new regulations andlaws, and also to cultivate a culture that fosters greater mutual respect toensure that our campus is one in which every member of our community canthrive.I deeply appreciate and acknowledge the good, hard work that manycommunity members have already undertaken in this area, including taskforce members, Sexual Misconduct and Advisors Resource Team(SMARTeam) and Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) members,staff in the dean’s office, health services, public safety, and many otherindividual students, faculty, and staff. For the last several years, we havehad a part-time Title IX coordinator and have hired additional staff specifically to address this issue. We have expanded and improved trainingand consent workshops, regularly notified the community about availableresources, and made a number of other improvements. But there is still morework to be done to meet our common goals as an intellectual communitythat always sets and achieves the highest possible standards.MHA will return to campus this fall to meet with community members. Theywill provide additional recommendations in their final report. Based on theirinterim report and in consultation with our internal task force, I want to sharethe following specific actions to be implemented over the next severalmonths:
I have authorized—and this fall we will conduct—a national search for adedicated, fulltime Title IX coordinator, who will report directly to thePresident. The search committee will be formed when students andfaculty return, with a goal to have a coordinator in place by the end of the academic year.
In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that Patricia FlahertyFischette, who has worked in counseling and psychological services(CAPS) and with health services to provide counseling andprogrammatic support to students and the SMARTeam, has agreed totake a leave from CAPS to serve as the College’s interim Title IXcoordinator, effective immediately. Patricia will be responsible for all Title IX compliance, training, and programming and will reviewinvestigations. We are most fortunate she is able to step into thisimportant role this summer. Her background in law, counseling, and Title IX will serve us well as we begin implementing the MHA
 
recommendations.
 The Title IX coordinator’s work will be further supported by anexpanded group of Title IX deputy coordinators, including LiliRodriguez, associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and communitydevelopment; Patricia Reilly, associate provost for academicdevelopment and outreach and associate professor of art history;Zenobia Hargust, human resources manager; and Nnenna Akotaobi,associate athletics director. These deputies will support the Title IXcoordinator’s oversight of all Title IX complaints and will identify andaddress any patterns or systemic problems that arise during the reviewof Title IX complaints.
One of the most common concerns raised by students is a lack of aclearly identified advocate to help victims/survivors navigate oursupport systems as well as our grievance procedures. We will hire anadvocate to provide guidance through our systems for survivors of sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment and misconduct.
We fully appreciate that respondents to complaints also requireassistance, particularly throughout the grievance process. We will hirea hearings advisor for this important function, noting that the U.S.Department of Education clearly mandates a fair and equitable processfor both complainants and respondents.
We are currently conducting a thorough review of all relevant policiesand procedures related to sexual misconduct, including, among manyothers, the prohibition of sexual and discriminatory harassment as wellas gender identity violence; the notice of non-discrimination; sexualmisconduct; and Public Safety’s policies for handling sexual assaultreports. The College, along with legal experts who specialize in theseareas and are well acquainted with the changing regulatoryenvironment, is working hard to draft a comprehensive policy, in fullcompliance with existing and new regulations and laws, forconsultation with the community in the fall.
Our prevention, education, and programming devoted to sexualmisconduct will be expanded. We will undertake a comprehensiveinventory of our current education and prevention efforts in order tostrengthen these efforts and ensure we are complying with federalmandates and abiding by best practices. We will engage the TaskForce on Sexual Misconduct, as well as other student groups, in thisinventory. We also intend to provide a new, online course for incomingfirst-year students and require all students to take it each year. We arecurrently identifying options for the online course, and we will ask thetask force, the SMARTeam, ASAP members, and others to advise us in

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