May 7, 2014

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

Resources on Sexual Misconduct and Title IX


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


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.