July 16, 2014

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

Over the last two days many of you have shared concerns regarding the article that appeared in The New York Times on Sunday. Your comments have been heartfelt and sincere. As the father of two daughters, I was especially disheartened that our campus was the place of such sorrow and tragedy for one of our students.

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the letter to the editor in The New York Times from Maureen Collins Zupan, chair of the Board of Trustees (also copied at the end of this letter). As Maureen notes, we continuously work to ensure that our sexual misconduct policy and process meet the standards that you and others in the Hobart and William Smith community expect. It is part of our ongoing commitment to create a safe and supportive environment at the Colleges for all of our students.

Here are a few of the things that are underway:

  • A group of faculty, staff, students and alums are working on a thorough review of our processes for sexual misconduct cases including investigation, adjudication and support procedures. They will submit recommendations to me this summer.
  • We will have a dedicated Title IX office staffed with experts in educational development, psychologists and legal advisers established for the Fall 2014 semester to ensure that our hearing process is equitable and fair.
  • We are reviewing enhanced safety measures including greater use of technology and a student-initiated 24-hour hotline.
  • The Colleges' prevention and education curriculum will be expanded to include training for all students and special programming for cohort groups such as student government representatives, resident assistants, athletes and fraternities, among many others.
  • We will provide enhanced training for faculty and staff, and additional training for those involved with response, investigation and/or adjudication of sexual misconduct complaints.
  • Based on best practices suggested by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, we will conduct a climate survey this fall to clearly understand the perspectives of our student body.

On Tuesday I had an opportunity to meet with students who created a petition on Change.org. They shared their concerns, and we discussed their thoughtful ideas about what we can do to engage students not just for a few hours at a required seminar but in a way that is ongoing and meaningful. Alumni and alumnae have organized conference calls seeking ways to enhance and support our efforts. Many have volunteered to offer their professional expertise as we chart new directions.

These conversations and actions are inspiring to me because in seeking to create change, they affirm belief in this community and its future.

We have a moment of opportunity before us to make a difference in our community and I look forward to updating you on our efforts.


Mark D. Gearan


Share suggestions and ideas for change with Hobart and William Smith Colleges: HWSfeedback@hws.edu

A student group, the Coalition of Concerned Students, is working to ensure that the Colleges are a safe environment for all students and are joining with the Colleges and the HWS Community for Change to enact policy and climate changes. The Coalition of Concerned Students can be reached at: hwscocs@gmail.com.

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