Dear Members of the HWS Community,
Earlier today the New York Times published a story about a sexual misconduct case at Hobart and William Smith that led to a complaint being filed by a student with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The article reports on one student’s experience and the issues of sexual misconduct hearings in an academic community. This is a difficult article to read and for any student to be left with this perspective is disheartening. It is clear to me that even though we believe we handled the circumstances fairly and within the constraints of the law, and that we made decisions based on the evidence, there is no sense of satisfaction other than the knowledge that we treated everyone with compassion, kindness and respect. Our primary concern is to provide the student with the opportunities and support she needs to have a successful experience when she returns to our campus this fall.
I write to offer background and context on the article, to share a website we have created that includes information that was provided to the Times reporter which is largely missing from the article, and to convey the significant plans we have moving forward to address this national and very personal issue. The Colleges have no tolerance for sexual misconduct and are not reluctant to enforce our community standards and take action. In the past two years, the Colleges have adjudicated seven sexual misconduct cases resulting in four students being permanently separated from the Colleges.
We are fortunate to work in cooperation with the police force in Geneva and encourage every student who reports sexual misconduct to speak with the Geneva Police Department. In the case in question, within one hour of the report being made to HWS, the matter was presented to the Geneva Police Department. We have an established and effective system of policies and procedures that enforce the community standards we expect of all students. The panelists involved in adjudicating cases receive extensive training which includes multiple-day sessions with national experts.
This summer the Colleges are completing an audit of our approach to sexual misconduct and community standards. Committees of students, faculty, staff, alumni, alumnae and parents have been formed and are at work to assist with this effort. With their help, we are expanding our Title IX efforts and establishing a new Office of Title IX staffed by psychologists, an experienced Title IX legal adviser who will continue to ensure that our hearing process is equitable and fair, and an expert in educational development, all advised by a senior member of the faculty.
In response to inquiries, HWS officials met with the Times reporter for two lengthy interviews and answered numerous questions via e-mail and phone, all in an effort to fully explain our approach and philosophy regarding sexual assault cases. Regrettably, these responses were either ignored or downplayed in the article. We sought to provide him with as much information as possible within the constraints placed upon us by law as well as the limits we felt best to protect the privacy and dignity of those involved. As you can appreciate, we declined to share specific details of the case believing that to do so would be morally reprehensible and would violate federal law. We did not share the transcripts of the hearings with the reporter, which were quoted out of context in the article, again because to do so would violate the law.
I can well appreciate the concerns and outrage of those reading this article regarding our system, processes and approaches. These are complex issues facing every college and university. Sexual assault and all acts of violence undermine the ideals of dignity and respect we hold dear. The result is heartbreaking. Nothing is more important than working collaboratively to find solutions that will ensure the safety and wellbeing of students.
HWS is a special place with a dynamic student body, dedicated faculty and staff and an engaged alumni and alumnae. Collectively we are involved in a noble pursuit, one that we approach with sincere commitment to preparing students to lead lives of consequence. We are earnest in this effort and dedicated to ensuring that our students have a living and learning environment that values excellence in the classroom and a campus climate based on civility, collaboration and respect. To do any less would belittle the trust that our alumni, alumnae, students and parents have placed with us.
In future communications I will report to you on our efforts and trust you will not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Mark D. Gearan
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
With the successful close of the academic year and beginning of the summer months, I write to provide an update from Geneva and our plans for the year ahead.
We celebrated the end of the year at Commencement, where our seniors heard from Brad Falchuk ’93, L.H.D. ’14 who, as one might expect from the co-creator, writer and executive producer of the hit television shows “Glee” and “American Horror Story,” delivered a thoughtful speech about the nature of failure and the creation of heroes. As the Colleges begin construction on the new Performing Arts Center this summer, Falchuk was presented with an honorary degree, as were four other individuals whose dedication to and leadership in the arts are a lifelong passion: Dr. Reynold Levy '66, L.H.D. ’14, former president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Dorothy Wickenden '76, L.H.D. ’14, executive editor of The New Yorker; and local Geneva philanthropists and arts supporters Nozomi Williams L.H.D. ’14 and Carl Fribolin L.H.D. ’14.
Commencement was a fitting end to an exceptional year summarized by this brief video that conveys the excitement of life on campus as well as the purposeful way in which we approach education. Our faculty members have continued to distinguish themselves through dedication and commitment to our students in the classroom as well as through research, publications and presentations on dozens of subjects. I was very pleased to appoint Professor and Chair of French and Francophone Studies Catherine Gallouët as the next Dean of William Smith College. Professor Gallouët has been a dedicated faculty member at HWS for 27 years and brings a wealth of experience in the classroom with deep understanding of our students. In addition to her commitment to our students, she is an accomplished scholar whose many publications speak to her impressive record of research and exposition.
In 2013 Hobart and William Smith were among the colleges and universities that produced the most 2013-2014 Fulbright U.S. Students. We are proud that two more students will benefit from the Fulbright award and travel to Taiwan and Malaysia. This year our students earned a Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, which provides preparation for a career in the Foreign Service; the Goldwater, the nation’s premier undergraduate award in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering; an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship which includes an internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the Newman Civic Fellow which is awarded by Campus Compact to students working for solutions facing their communities. This spring, a first-year student, Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17, was named the 2014 winner of The Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch, the Colleges’ annual entrepreneurial contest which has provided him with a $10,000 grant to develop his idea for an online educational service for students in Ghana. And, thanks to the generosity of Honorary Trustee Charles H. Salisbury Jr. '63, P'94, L.H.D.'08, three rising seniors will spend their summers in internships around the globe as part of the Salisbury Summer International Internship Stipend Award. They are three of the hundreds of students engaged in internships this summer alone.
This was also an outstanding year in every sport, most notably when, under the leadership of Head Coach Aliceann Wilber, William Smith Soccer won the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer National Championship for the second time in the program’s history. Hobart Basketball won the Liberty League tournament for the second year in a row, while Hobart Football won all nine of its regular season games this year, posting its second straight undefeated regular season. William Smith Field Hockey earned its third consecutive and 21st overall NCAA tournament appearance. After winning gold medals at the Liberty League and New York State championships, the William Smith Rowing team's varsity eight raced in its fifth straight NCAA Championship. Hobart Rowing capped the 2013-14 season with participation in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship regatta for the 10th time. William Smith College sailors secured their best finish in program history at the ICSA Women's National Championship. And just last week, Liberty League Commissioner Tracy King announced that Richie Bonney '14 and Olivia Zitoli '14 are the 2013-14 Liberty League Scholar-Athletes of the Year for their commitment to athletics, academics and service.
In the midst of these many accomplishments, we learned in April that the Colleges were included on a list of 60 colleges and universities about which the Department of Education has received a complaint regarding Title IX enforcement and sexual misconduct. As I stated in my letter to all alumni, alumnae and parents in May, the health, safety and wellbeing of all students is of paramount concern to the Colleges. We take sexual misconduct very seriously and are working to prevent and combat it. As we have done in the past, we will continue to provide the HWS community with information on our efforts.
As we seek to inspire our students to lead lives of consequence, during the last academic year the Colleges invited dozens of alums, parents and notable public figures to campus to speak with students about careers in everything from digital marketing to finance to government, as well as to discuss politics, the arts, the environment and inclusive excellence. In the fall, we presented the 39th Elizabeth Blackwell Award to the Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to serve as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Hobart College awarded the Medal of Excellence to Dr. Christopher C. Beyrer '81, an internationally renowned expert on AIDS, who is the founding director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Johns Hopkins University Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program. The Medal of Excellence was also conferred on Jeffrey L. Amestoy '68, P'11, P'14, a Fellow of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the former Chief Justice of Vermont Supreme Court.
The Colleges hosted one of the largest Reunions in our history in early June with alumni and alumnae gathering from around the world to share life stories and celebrate connections to one another and their alma maters. This video summarizes the weekend’s many highlights. After the festivities concluded, I received an email from Liam Allman ’15, a Hobart student who remained on campus to assist with Reunion activities. Liam writes that attending Reunion and having the opportunity to interact with alums “…only instilled further my own feelings of pride, honor and gratitude for being given the opportunity to study and live in such an amazing community.” Liam’s note is a heartfelt bookend to an unforgettable weekend as well as a reminder of the important role that alumni and alumnae play in the lives of our students.
The momentum we are experiencing on campus has resulted in increased interest from prospective students who are applying and enrolling in record numbers. The Classes of 2018 will arrive this fall with an enhanced academic profile and greater diversity than ever before. Giving to the Colleges has also increased as we’ve completed fundraising for the Performing Arts Center. The next issue of The Pulteney Street Survey, which will arrive in homes at the beginning of July, includes details on a new fundraising initiative that leverages a recent bequest from William F. Scandling ’49, LL.D. ’67 to encourage philanthropy in support of scholarships, guaranteed internships and entrepreneurial leadership initiatives. The efforts of the entire Hobart and William Smith community – through volunteering and consistent giving to the Annual Fund – have made this success possible.
With gratitude for your continued support of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and for your confidence in our future, I thank you.
Mark D. Gearan
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
Recent press reports have highlighted the White House Task Force effort to combat sexual assault on college campuses as part of the “Not Alone” initiative. I welcome the national focus on sexual misconduct and am hopeful that these steps will result in a decrease in violence. I have written to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to lend my own support and the assistance of the Colleges. This work requires the full engagement and support of the entire academic community, an effort to which Hobart and William Smith Colleges are fully committed.
Last week, the Department of Education sought to bring greater transparency and responsiveness to this issue with the publication of the list of schools about which it has received a complaint, including Hobart and William Smith. As you would expect, the Colleges will fully comply with the investigation. Sexual assault is among the most destructive issues facing colleges and universities. Nothing is more important than working collaboratively to find solutions that will ensure the safety and wellbeing of students. It is appropriate to note that the Department of Education has been clear that a pending investigation does not indicate that a college or university has violated the law.
At Hobart and William Smith we take sexual misconduct very seriously and seek to handle each report with compassion and care. The Colleges have in place a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy and a full time Title IX coordinator responsible for managing the Colleges’ response and investigation of sexual misconduct complaints. All Hobart and William Smith students are required to attend multiple sessions on the issue starting the first full day of Orientation and continuing throughout their academic career, each one delivered by national experts and staff specially trained to do so. The Think Smart program, piloted in 2013, provides students with the necessary resources to know their options in the event that sexual harassment or assault occurs. We’ve also sought to create alternate ways for students to report misconduct, including an online Bias Incident Reporting Form that allows any member of the HWS community to anonymously report a violation of community standards.
I am grateful to our students for their active collaboration in this work, organizing awareness campaigns, raising funds in support of local violence-prevention programs, and – through clubs like the Women’s Collective and Hobart for Equality and Respect, and through events like Take Back the Night and Walk-a-Mile in Her Shoes – regularly contributing to the campus-wide conversation. They are creating greater awareness and making a difference on our campus. My meetings this spring with student government leaders have been productive and we will continue our work over the summer months to prepare for the next academic year.
Despite these and other efforts, sexual misconduct does occur. When it does, the Colleges seek to ensure that our policies, practices and procedures respond appropriately to the unique circumstances of each situation while also providing students with the services and support they need.
In order to centralize information for you, we have created a web site that includes resources on sexual misconduct and Title IX as well as frequently asked questions. It is our understanding that the Department of Education process may take months to conclude. As new information becomes available, we will continue to update the page.
The Colleges recognize the needs of our students and are fortunate to have a team of knowledgeable, caring professionals who work to create a culture of consent, one in which all students understand their responsibilities to one another and themselves. And we know that the vast majority of our students abide by our community standards, treating fellow classmates with kindness and respect.
As always, if you have ideas or suggestions to enhance our efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Mark D. Gearan
Statement from President Mark D. Gearan
NEW YORK SIX CONSORTIUM PRESIDENTS REJECT ASA CALL FOR BOYCOTT
The presidents of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium today issued a statement rejecting the American Studies Association's call for a boycott of academic institutions in Israel. The statement reads:
We the Presidents of the six schools that make up the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium (Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, St. Lawrence University, Skidmore College, Union College) reject the call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions recently announced by the American Studies Association. We agree with the American Association of University Professors that the ASA resolution is "a setback for the cause of academic freedom." We have found that interaction and collaboration are by far the best way for schools to investigate the most significant problems our society faces. We will continue to encourage our colleagues to engage with faculty and institutions in Israel and across the world to promote scholarship and the free exchange of ideas, and to provide additional opportunities for our students.
The New York Six presidents signing on to this statement are: Jeffrey Herbst, Colgate University; Joan Hinde Stewart, Hamilton College; Mark Gearan, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; William Fox, St. Lawrence University; Philip Glotzbach, Skidmore College; and Stephen Ainlay, Union College.
The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium facilitates collaboration among its member institutions in fulfilling their educational missions and serving the public good. Through the sharing of expertise and resources, the Consortium enhances options for students, faculty, and staff, while reducing colleges' individual and collective operating and capital costs.