Message to Alumnae, Alumni and Parents

August 14, 2015

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

During the course of the past year, I have reached out to the extended Hobart and William Smith community on a number of occasions to keep alumnae, alumni and parents apprised of new developments on campus. I have valued the conversations that have followed and write today in the same spirit of candor and dialogue.

This summer we have continued to advance our efforts to strengthen our programming as we've also prepared to welcome a new, vibrant class to campus this fall. From the initiatives that have emerged from the student body, to the faculty and staff who have worked to evolve the HWS sexual misconduct policy, to the many members of our community who have gathered for thoughtful discussion, we are enhancing a culture of respect.

On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released updated information about the growing list of institutions of higher education with pending sexual assault complaints, now numbering 130. The Colleges were informed that a second complaint had been filed regarding Hobart and William Smith. Although we are prohibited by law from discussing the details of any individual case, OCR has stated that its acceptance of a complaint does not imply that OCR has made a determination as to its merits. We take all allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously and I pledge the Colleges' full cooperation as the OCR moves forward in its examination of this matter.

Like colleges and universities across the country, Hobart and William Smith are committed to building and maintaining an academic environment free from sexual misconduct in all its forms. As a community of students, faculty and staff, we are working tirelessly and in collaboration with alumnae, alumni, parents and national experts to ensure that our resources and processes are effective, accessible, fair and equitable, and that all individuals are treated with dignity.

As I reported in my letter in the most recent issue of The Pulteney Street Survey, after a national search I appointed Susan Lee as our Title IX Coordinator. She will oversee our efforts around sexual and gender based misconduct. Selected from a national cohort of candidates, Susan impressed our search committee and me with the breadth of her expertise in compliance, education and outreach in Title IX. With more than two decades of experience, she most recently served as the Director of Affirmative Action and Campus Diversity at Indiana University South Bend where she was Deputy Title IX Coordinator with Title IX compliance responsibility for a campus of 7,500 students. Her leadership will be instrumental in maintaining our proactive initiatives and she will report directly to me.

We enter the fall semester excited for the promise of the upcoming academic year and ready to provide our students with the resources and training they need to make informed decisions. This complaint to OCR does not diminish the work we have accomplished nor will it slow our progress. I am appreciative of efforts to date and of the collective energy of so many who have worked to make certain that we are serving the needs of our community with integrity and compassion.

I trust you will not hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Mark D. Gearan




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