Independent Review of Sexual Assault Process

Dear Students,

I want to state very plainly something that Dean Braun and I have consistently said for the last three years--we have zero tolerance for sexual assault, abuse, and violence on our campus. It is against the law, it is wrong, and we must all continue to reinforce the message that even one such incident is too many on our campus. It is important to recognize that these issues are not unique to Swarthmore, and in fact reports from other campuses have repeatedly been in the news this year.

But my concern now turns to what it is we can and must do here at Swarthmore. Based on the significant concerns that students have raised about sexual misconduct on our campus, and, in particular, about how sexual assault cases are handled, I have decided to seek an external review of all of our policies, procedures, and sanctions related to sexual misconduct. This review will begin as soon as possible and will continue into the fall in order to ensure that students have every opportunity for input. The review is ultimately meant to improve our processes and programs to prevent sexual violence, and to have strong, sound processes in place when we must contend with cases of sexual assault.

As Dean Braun and I have outlined in communications addressed to you these last few years, we have made important strides in addressing our policies, expanding support personnel, and improving our practices. But it is very clear to me based on the continuing concerns expressed by our students that much more work is needed. I, along with Dean Braun, Director of Public Safety Mike Hill, Title IX Coordinator Sharmaine LaMar, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Joanna Gallagher, Director of Worth Health Center Beth Kotarski, and many others on this campus, remain deeply committed to creating a violence-free campus.

Our SMARTeam students and many others are invaluable partners in helping to prevent sexual violence and providing support to survivors. We have and will continue to support crucial programmatic initiatives related to consent, RAD classes, and domestic violence. We want to continue to educate and publicize available resources in the community including our anonymous reporting forms and phone lines. We will also continue to educate faculty and staff so that they can be helpful to students who turn to them for support.

I am deeply concerned and troubled by the lack of trust that exists among some students about our reporting procedures, our judicial process, and other aspects of our approach to addressing sexual assault on campus. In spite of efforts to improve in these areas, there remains an apprehension about our processes that we must remedy in order for survivors to feel comfortable coming forward. We want to and need to hear from students about what is, and what is not working in our current policies, practices, and support services.

Swarthmore is a community that is thoughtful enough and self-critical enough to continue to improve itself by embracing our shared responsibility--we all have a role to play in making this a community that we are proud to claim as our own. I look forward to our continued work together and to making Swarthmore a safe, caring, and supportive environment for all students.


Rebecca Chopp
President of the College