Title IX Coordinator Spring Semester Update

Happy New Year, Swarthmore Friends, 

I have been at Swarthmore for six months, and I am grateful that I have gotten to meet so many people who are dedicated to preventing sexual violence and continuing to create a safe and supportive community. I’ve been inspired by the many students I have met. They are absolutely committed to healing this community, supporting each other, and helping this campus they call home. As we reconvene for spring semester, sexual assault and relationship violence is still prevalent in the news and, unfortunately, in many of our lives. I know that it can feel overwhelming, but the national attention brings awareness to an important issue in our community and allows us to renew our commitment to do the work on campus to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence and create supportive and fair response structures.

Eighteen months ago, Swarthmore made a commitment to do things in a new way and to be a leader in higher education in responding to and preventing sexual misconduct. Since 2013, Swarthmore has taken a deep look at itself; it conducted internal and external reviews, created new positions, began new initiatives, and adopted a new sexual harassment and assault policy.  (For a complete list of actions the College has taken since spring 2013, please see here.)

Much work has been done—and we have a lot of work still to do. In the six months that I have been here, I focused on learning about this campus.  I have met as many people as I can and worked with students, faculty, and staff to create the structures that will take us to the next level. Some of that is starting this spring—and I know that new initiatives and new strategies will emerge as these groups begin their work. What follows are some of the new initiatives already underway, with more to follow.

Updates and Looking Ahead

  • Student Title IX Advisory Team. A group of 10 dedicated Swarthmore students met for the first time at the end of fall semester and will meet weekly during the spring semester to advise on policy, procedures, events, and initiatives. 
  • Expanded Prevention Education. The new Sexual Violence Prevention and Healthy Relationships Education Team has planned a week of events in February about healthy relationships, consent, and identity. The team will meet weekly and continue to plan events for the rest of spring semester and next year. If you have ideas or suggestions, please feel free to contact anyone on the team. 
  • Title IX Fellow. Please join me in welcoming Abigail Henderson ’15 the newly hired Title IX fellow, a position in the Office of the Title IX Coordinator. Abigail, who recently completed her cognitive science degree, will help with events, website and other resource development, and prevention education.
  • Expanded hours in the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). Violence Prevention Educator and Advocate Nina Harris will have drop-in hours at the WRC. For more information, contact Nina at nharris1@swarthmore.edu.
  • SAVE Training (Survivor Support and Anti-Violence Advocacy Training). Nina Harris will offer this semester’s SAVE Training on Saturday, Feb. 28. This is a full-day interactive experience, designed for members of the Swarthmore community who want to increase their knowledge and skills around interpersonal violence prevention and survivor support. Last semester’s participants called the training a “deeply informative and engaging experience.” To register or for more information, visit http://goo.gl/forms/qZrD8LXioh or contact Nina at nharris1@swarthmore.edu
  • Community survey. I am working with Institutional Research and the Dean’s Office to gather more information about sexual misconduct on campus. Watch for more information this spring regarding a survey. 
  • Adjudication/Reporting. I am working collaboratively with the Dean’s Office and Public Safety to continue to improve the sexual misconduct reporting, investigation, and adjudication process. I have also gathered feedback from complainants and respondents who have gone through our process; this information is helping to inform further refinements. 


Fall Term Highlights and Review

Fall 2014 built on the great work conducted the previous year. New positions and initiatives emerged. 

  • *New* New Student Orientation. The Dean’s Office created a new orientation program, including intentional sexual violence and relationship abuse prevention programs. Every new student was required to take an online course from Campus Clarity called Think About It. Students also met Nina Harris, violence prevention educator and advocate, during her presentation “Making Friends, Making Out.”
  • New Faculty & Staff Orientations. Orientations were revised to include information about the Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy and employee roles in creating a safe and supportive community. 
  • Peer Leader Trainings. Nina was also active in providing educational workshops for various campus student groups and leaders, including the residential-life staff, the SWAT team, and Delta Upsilon, in addition to her work with the student organization ASAP (Acquaintance, Sexual Assault Prevention).
  • Prevention Programs. National educator and speaker Mike Domitrz visited campus in November and presented “Can I Kiss You?” In addition, he had dinner with peer leaders and worked with them on “Talking About Consent with Peers.” Nina also conducted a daylong SAVE training. 
  • Title IX House. The Title IX House (located across the street from the Matchbox) opened and welcomed many for meetings, workshops, and events. Watch for details for our Spring Semester Open House. 
  • Sexual Misconduct Task Force. The Task Force wrapped up its work, distributed its report on campus, and presented it to multiple groups. The report will continue to inform policy, procedures, and improvements.  
  • Survivor Support. Nina Harris continued to provide advocacy services to students—cultivating new resources for support and working across campus to improve accessibility to support. In addition, she sponsored two Survivor Dinners, open to any student who identified as a survivor. These dinners offered a welcoming, safe space for survivors to connect with one another for support as well as share their experiences as survivors at Swarthmore and learn more about the resources and initiatives that can address their needs.

When Title IX came into existence in 1972, it set the foundation for our work today. Title IX is fundamentally about reducing and removing barriers to education based on sex discrimination. Interpretation of that charge has evolved since 1972 and has inspired a new wave of comprehensive sexual misconduct policies, offering protections to all people on campus, all genders, and all who experience sexual harassment, assault, relationship violence, and stalking. 

Sexual misconduct is a community issue, and it will take a community to prevent it. Those of you who have heard me speak know that I focus on this issue in four ways: (1) through campus policies that reflect federal guidelines and campus values, (2) a response/adjudication process that is clear and supportive, (3) ongoing sexual violence prevention and healthy relationships education, and (4) creating a survivor-supportive community. We have made progress in all four areas, and I look forward to working with the Swarthmore community to continue the work. As always, if you have ideas or suggestions, please be in touch. 

Thanks for all your support,

Kaaren M. Williamsen
Title IX Coordinator