Hobart and William Smith Colleges
To: Pat McGuire L.H.D. ’12 and Mara O’Laughlin ’66, L.H.D. ’13, Co-Chairs of the Culture of Respect Steering Committee
From: President Mark D. Gearan
Date: November 17, 2014
RE: Update on Campus Initiatives

I write to thank you for your volunteer efforts as Co-Chairs of the Culture of Respect Steering Committee, and to provide an update on projects important to the Colleges. As you know, concurrent with your work are a number of ongoing initiatives designed to make a difference in the lives of our students, providing additional safety measures and ensuring that all students have the training and resources necessary to navigate issues of sexual violence.

Thanks to the partnership of faculty, staff and students, significant work has been accomplished to make Hobart and William Smith an even better place. Below are summaries of the work to date.

  • Policies and Procedures: Over the summer and in collaboration with faculty, students and staff, the Colleges revised its sexual misconduct policy, originally designed by the faculty in 2005, to create an Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy. Under the leadership of the Committee on Faculty, that policy is undergoing a complete review and revision, scheduled for completion at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year. The Committee on Faculty has organized faculty, staff, and students into six working groups that are addressing: the structure and staff of the Title IX office; the definition of consent; reporting; hearing and resolving reported cases; sanctions; and language choices. Each working group has Title IX office staff and an external consultant to help with research and consult on best practices. During the spring semester of 2015, each working group will hold a community forum to discuss recommendations. The results of these community discussions will be used to complete the revision of the policy.

  • Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance: The Colleges have significantly expanded the Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance to include the interim Title IX coordinator, two psychologists and an experienced Title IX legal adviser, housed at 603 South Main Street in the Seneca Room Annex. The office has already served as a great resource to our students this semester. Members of the team are working now to support and enhance greater awareness through facilitated training sessions, community conversations, and other events.

  • Title IX Coordinator Search: The Title IX Coordinator and the Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance will report directly to me and will oversee educational programming, compliance, investigation and adjudication of complaints. This important national search was posted in October. Vice President for Human Resources Sandy Bissell is coordinating a search committee to include faculty, staff and students.

  • Bystander Training: Thanks to 35 faculty and staff members who volunteered their time to be trained to facilitate bystander intervention training for our students (based on the University of New Hampshire model), hundreds of students have already participated in these workshops this semester. All first-year students are required to attend and most have already participated. They join a number of upper-class students who have participated through their affiliations with athletics teams and HWS clubs. In total, more than 800 students to date have been trained. The Title IX Office is expanding training to include any remaining first-year students and all members of athletic teams, fraternities and campus organizations. The office will then offer sessions open to all students. Work is also happening to ensure that bystander training is the first step in a progressive and continuous training program that gives students the tools they need to navigate a myriad of social situations that require facility in topics related to race, class, gender and sexuality.

  • Awareness and Educational Programming: I am grateful to the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men and to the Office of Student Affairs for their collaboration on a series of forums on sexual violence held in September. The events wisely used the talents of our faculty, staff and students to create a dynamic series of programmatic events. In addition, I am pleased to announce that on December 9, the President’s Forum will welcome to campus Susan Brison, the chair of the philosophy department at Dartmouth College, an expert on sexual violence, and the author of Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self. Professor Brison’s talk will add significantly to the ongoing campus dialogue.

  • Training for Faculty and Staff: Members of the Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance have met with the faculty and will do so again this semester to further discuss compliance regarding responsible employee status as well as how faculty can help students make connections to appropriate resources. The Office is holding training sessions this November for staff directors, managers and supervisors. These sessions will then be expanded to include all staff across the Colleges. In addition, Provost Titi Ufomata and Dr. Susan Pliner, the associate dean of teaching, learning and assessment, worked with a group of faculty volunteers to test two online training modules. The Title IX office is reviewing the feedback of that group now to make a recommendation for next steps.

  • Greater Use of Technology: The Colleges have been working with students and alums to identify technology solutions that can help our community stay safe. HWS is one of the first three higher education institutions to partner with Circle of 6, an app that won the White House “Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge.” Circle of 6 allows students to connect with friends to prevent violence before it happens. Designed for college students, the app provides easy access to on- and off-campus resources and allows the user to connect with six friends of their choice to alert them of their location or request an interruption. The app will be ready for students to download (iPhone and Android) and use by the start of the spring semester.

  • 24-Hour Hotline: As part of a student initiative, the Colleges have partnered with the local sexual assault and domestic violence response service Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes to give the entire campus community access to a 24-hour hotline, an important option for students who wish to report sexual assault. The hotline will be staffed by on-call students specially trained to provide appropriate support and explain reporting options. A group of dedicated students have completed training with Safe Harbors, which reports that the program will be up and running after the New Year. It should be noted that the campus community has 24-hour access to on-call counseling and to the Title IX office through the Colleges’ Campus Safety office.

  • The Sexual Violence Response and Evaluation Team (SVRET): Under the leadership of the Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance, the Colleges have convened a group of campus and community first-responders that meets monthly throughout the academic year. The SVRET is designed to build relationships necessary to provide effective and coordinated first response and streamlined procedures; share protocols with members of the team so each can provide accurate information to students who may access their services/offices; and discuss case studies to ensure that first responses are coordinated, focused on student well-being, and in keeping with best practices. The SVRET is composed of members of the Title IX office, the HWS Center for Counseling and Student Wellness, Campus Safety, the Office of Student Affairs, Hubbs Health Center, Residential Education, Campus Clergy, one faculty representative, and student representatives. Community first-responders include staff from Safe Harbors, the Geneva Police Department, the District’s Attorney’s Office, and FF Thompson Hospital. 

  • Center for Gender and Sexuality: The creation of a center on campus has been a topic of research and study for some months with various cohort groups outlining versions of what such a center could be and do on our campus. The Colleges will continue to review proposed concepts, investigate best practices and explore how such a center could intersect with other campus entities that are committed to the exploration of gender, sexuality, power and privilege.

  • Climate Survey: The Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance has taken a leadership role in analyzing different approaches to administering a comprehensive climate survey. The office has prepared a recommendation that balances a swift timeline with the potential benefits of customization. That recommendation has been reviewed by Vice President for Student Affairs Robb Flowers, and is now being evaluated by faculty and student groups. A final recommendation is expected within the next two weeks.