The Campus Dialogue

“In some ways, assault, violence and rape are ways to remind someone they are guests or less fully human or not fully citizens of a place,” says Betty Bayer, professor of women’s studies. “If we do not attend to sexual violence, rape, harassment and assault as a more comprehensive matter, then I think we risk it all, including the very values and practices we espouse in our mission.”

An American is sexually assaulted every two minutes, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Annually, almost 240,000 people (ages 12 or older) are victims of sexual assault.


Hobart and William Smith are taking action to draw down those numbers. Before this fall’s Orientation, the HWS community undertook a significant amount of work to prepare for the fall semester, instituting a series of updated and new training, prevention and education programs.

The Colleges’ Office for Title IX Programs & Compliance is taking “a multi-faceted approach to reach members of the community so that they know we are here, where to go, what to do, and how to get help when it’s needed,” says Stacey Pierce, interim Title IX coordinator and associate dean of students.


The Title IX office recently expanded to include two psychologists and an experienced Title IX legal adviser. With an extensive background in student affairs and a doctorate in college policy and administration, Pierce was selected as the interim coordinator this academic year while a national search is underway for a permanent coordinator.

The more robust office “has the opportunity—and in my opinion, the responsibility—to help shift and shape our culture to become more inclusive in our words and actions as community members,” Pierce says. “We must all recognize the roles we play in creating an environment where everyone is welcome.”

Tyler Steving ’15, president of Hobart for Equality and Respect, concurs. “We have to broaden our horizons and attack things from a cultural perspective that deals with respect, diversity, oppression and what it means to be good citizens of the community.”


In September, the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men hosted a series of events surrounding strategies for promoting a culture of respect. Jodi Dean, professor of political science and director of the Center, says the series intends to keep “the conversation about rape and sexual violence on campus at the forefront of the concerns of this fall…providing a location for continued reflection, inquiry and discussion of the issues regarding sexual violence, and that’s a really important thing.”

Dean, a member of the Sexual Violence Task Force, says the event series and other campus efforts, are “…highlighting the fact that rape happens, the conditions under which rape happens, and issues within our procedures.”


“The changes in policy and discussions that are taking place at HWS now will lay the foundation for broader social change in the future,” says Mavreen Smiel ’07, one of the founders of the activist alum group HWS Community for Change. “I hope the students will take these lessons to heart and carry them wherever life’s journey takes them.”

For Bayer, these conversations are part of the “long road to liberty and democracy, to working out how to live here together…. As our Colleges retool our Title IX office, run workshops, hold lectures and invite discussion, we must also ask ourselves how we live, work and play together here, how we study and learn together, how our curriculum invites us to value a fuller range of history, of politics, of science, of arts and of dialogue to make the world, to build its future.”

The Committee on Faculty has organized faculty, staff and students into six working groups that are reviewing the Colleges’ policy governing sexual misconduct. The expected completion date of the review is the end of the 2014-2015 academic year. Sexual misconduct policies span a range of issues, from the definition of consent to the process for investigating and adjudicating allegations of assault. Until then, an interim policy created in collaboration with faculty, staff and students was put in place last summer (available for review on the HWS website). Associate Professor of Political Science DeWayne Lucas chaired the committee that created the previous sexual misconduct policy. As federal policies and the campus community evolve, “we have to channel our cultural beliefs and values into these conversations,” says Lucas, also a member of the Culture of Respect Steering Committee.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.