Updates on External Review and Task Force for Sexual Misconduct

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

I write to update you about the upcoming review of our policies and programs relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence. Several weeks ago, after hearing heartbreaking stories from those who have suffered sexual assault on this campus, and after listening to concerns about the support for survivors and to criticisms of our judicial process, I announced an independent external review to fully examine our sexual misconduct policies, programming, and practices.  

Although we have been working hard to improve our policies, programming, communications, and response to sexual assault in the last several years, this review will help us further prevent sexual misconduct in our community and, when needed, help us better support survivors. The review will enable us to create a culture of safety, respect, support, and due process.
As I noted in my message to our community on April 15, the review team will work closely with an internal Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, composed of students, faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Managers. The independent team of experts will determine where we can improve and will recommend best practices from other institutions and communities. The internal Task Force will help the reviewers understand our community while providing their own insights into our current processes and ways we can work together to improve our approach to this problem. 

I write now to share with you that Margolis Healy & Associates, a firm specializing in campus safety, security, and regulatory compliance, will conduct a careful and thorough review of all of the College's sexual misconduct policies and procedures. The independent external review team will consist of Linda Langford and Anne Munch, in addition to the firm's principals, Gary Margolis and Steven Healy. Together, they possess an impressive amount of directly relevant experience and expertise, in particular regarding the Clery Act, Title IX, and campus and community-based prevention. Margolis Healy's team will review all practices and procedures in order to make recommendations to improve the prevention of sexual misconduct and provide further support for survivors. They will begin their work this spring and summer and will continue into the fall, allowing ample time for community members to contribute to their investigation. Additional members may be added to their team as necessary.

I also want to share with you the members of the College's Task Force on Sexual Misconduct that will support the independent review. They are Sarah Willie-LeBreton, professor of sociology, who will serve as chair; Gwynn Kessler, associate professor of religion; two members of the Board of Managers, Rhonda Cohen '76, a civic leader in the region and former partner at Ballard Spahr Andrews Ingersoll, and Janet Dickerson H'92, Princeton University's first vice president for campus life, who also served as dean at Swarthmore from 1981-91; Maurice Eldridge '61, vice president for college and community relations; and Eric Behrens '92, associate chief information technology officer. The Task Force's three student members, whose nominations were supported by Student Council, are Gabby Capone '14, Kenneson Chen '14, and Nora Kerrich '16.

Recently, some Swarthmore students have filed complaints alleging Clery Act and Title IX violations. If the Department of Education (DOE) decides to pursue an investigation, the College will cooperate fully, and I urge all community members to do the same. It is likely we will hear from the DOE about its decision sometime this summer. The complaints have not been shared with the College, so I can't comment on the details. 

I am deeply concerned by the reports and stories of those who have suffered sexual assault that have recently come to the surface. I understand how painful surviving a sexual assault can be, and I promise you that I will do all I can to prevent assaults from occurring and that I will do all I can do so that, when there is an assault, abundant support for the survivor and fair systems of adjudication are in place. I will work ceaselessly to ensure that our whole community is well educated about consent, about support systems, and about how to access quickly a fair and respected judicial system. I will push until we develop a clear and accessible communication system so people can find help when they need it. I want to ensure that each student, staff, and faculty member is safe on this campus and that individuals are treated with dignity and respect by all members of our community. 

Now, and in the coming months, I ask each of you to join me in supporting the important work of Margolis Healy with support from the Task Force. They will examine all aspects of our sexual misconduct policies, processes, resources, programming, and judicial system.  The reviewers, working closely with the internal Task Force, will be provided access to any and all records and testimony necessary to carefully assess our practices, and, ultimately, to provide recommendations for ways we can improve. There will be ample opportunities for you to provide feedback during the process, and I encourage you to do so. Honest, candid feedback will be essential to the work of the external reviewer.

Preventing sexual violence is a shared responsibility-we all must play a part. I will not rest-and I hope you will not, either-until it is fully clear that the Swarthmore community will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind.    

Rebecca Chopp