Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

We write today to report on the Culture of Respect initiative that is guided by a Steering Committee we are honored to co-chair. Created by President Mark D. Gearan as a community response to the national dialogue about sexual misconduct on college campuses, the initiative was announced in the President's 2014 Convocation address:

I challenge all of us to engage in the honest, robust and respectful dialogue that will be required to model programs and initiatives to better serve our students... We have the opportunity to channel our renewed focus and energy on these issues and create the campus community that we all aspire to be a part of --- imbued with respect, empathy, civility and compassion. One that truly prepares students to lead lives of consequence. I will ask everyone to join us in this effort. We need your ideas and perspective... to make this great place an even better place. (President Mark D. Gearan, Convocation Speech, September 1, 2014).

In response to President Gearan's challenge, a committee has been formed to examine all aspects of our Colleges' community and to recommend steps we might take to enhance a culture of respect throughout our community. The Steering Committee consists of four members of the faculty, four students, four administrators, one trustee, two parents and the presidents of the Hobart and William Smith Alumni and Alumnae Associations. The committee has begun its work.

The Culture of Respect is the second part of a two-pronged response from the Colleges. The first has been focused on compliance and has been active since the summer. We recently received an update from President Gearan on these significant initiatives, which we've made available online. Much progress has been made including the publication of an Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy, currently under revision by the faculty, an expansion of the Title IX Office, and a national search for a full-time Title IX coordinator, among others.

The charge to our committee is to undertake an in-depth study of our campus and offer recommendations designed to enhance a culture of respect, and communicate our activity and progress to the entire HWS community. The new website offers us a venue to report on our activities as well as those centered on compliance issues. The upcoming winter issue of The Pulteney Street Survey will also address these issues. This letter is our first correspondence with the Colleges' community. We intend to be transparent in our work and will send reports on our activity and progress.

The Culture of Respect steering committee has been organized into five focus areas: Safety and Wellness, Campus Facilities, History and Heritage, Dialogue Across Differences, and Curriculum. We will explore each of these areas to find opportunities to build a more powerful culture of respect.

In this work, we will be addressing some of our most important ways of doing things and actions we can take. Some of the questions we might be considering in each of these areas are on the website. We have met as a committee of the whole and the subcommittees are in meetings now.

While we are undertaking this critical work, we welcome hearing from you. We want to assure you that all 18 members of the steering committee along with President Gearan and many others are dedicated to this work. We share your dedication and passion for the Colleges and our goal is to enhance our reputation among the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

We respectfully request your assistance in our efforts. Please contact us via the website with your comments, recommendations, suggestions, criticisms and general response to our ongoing efforts or e-mail us at We seek to make our Colleges a better place, to create a renewed and enhanced dedication to our academic mission and to prepare our students for lives of consequence. Join us.


Mara O’Laughlin ’66, L.H.D. ’13
Director of Admissions
Asst. Vice President for Institutional Advancement
(1974 - 2013)

Pat McGuire L.H.D. ’12
Professor Emeritus of Economics
Interim Provost and Dean of Faculty
(1968 - 2012)


Share suggestions and ideas for change with Hobart and William Smith Colleges:

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:

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