During the summer of 2014, the Colleges received significant media attention as Hobart and William Smith were drawn into the national dialogue regarding sexual assault on college campuses. The Colleges’ response has been to seek improvement and knowledge, and to provide leadership on a defining social issue. As we acknowledge that we have systems, policies and caring professionals that exceed the standards at many other institutions, we are called to do more. We are called to be better.
During his 2014 Convocation Address, President Mark D. Gearan issued a call to the entire campus community to work collaboratively to enhance and foster a culture of respect on our campus. He said: “From class, to race, to sexuality - underneath all of these challenges to building a sense of community is the imperative for greater respect.”
A Culture of Respect is one in which empathy, diversity and truth are valued and practiced.
A culture of respect is one that encourages us to see the world from multiple perspectives; to participate in dialogue that lifts understanding and that cultivates a practice of listening; to understand marginalization and isolation as the byproduct of prejudice and hate; to show leadership and intervene even when it is inconvenient and especially when it is difficult; and to fight oppression while we also guard against intolerance in our own thoughts and actions.
In the fall of 2014, President Mark D. Gearan appointed a steering committee comprising students, faculty, staff and alums who are focusing their efforts in the following areas:
How do we create a climate of safety and respect that engages appropriate social behavior while addressing necessary interventions around high risk behavior? How do we ensure that all students feel protected with policies and procedures that are fair, understood and compassionate? How can the entire campus be engaged with training and awareness assisted with technology and the benefits of a campus climate survey?
As the Colleges commence a campus master plan, how can we ensure that our physical spaces - social, academic and residential - foster a culture of respect? How can we plan to enhance what is already a beautiful campus and ensure that it meets the needs of 21st century student life?
How can we leverage our nearly 200-year history of progressive movements and advocacy? As coordinate colleges, we are in a unique position to leverage the heritage and the reality of gender-based support to our students. How can we utilize that legacy for today’s and tomorrow’s Hobart and William Smith students?
In a campus that appropriately prizes debate and pursuit of the truth - how do we foster respectful dialogues across our differences? How do we utilize the benefits of social media while thwarting the deleterious aspects of the medium? How do we model discourse that allows for these hard but essential conversations?
How do we ensure that the academic program continues to inspire us individually and collectively and enhance our culture of respect? How can our curricular options add to our understanding of these issues with a deepened understanding of today’s world, economy, demographics and privileges?