A Letter to the Campus Community
To the Occidental Community:
In an effort to address the serious concerns raised about sexual assault at Occidental, the College commissioned Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez, two of the nation's leading experts on issues of sexual misconduct on college campuses, to conduct an independent review of Oxy’s policies and procedures. As promised, I am sharing Gina and Leslie’s May 1 Interim Recommendations letter (PDF download) in its entirety. The attached letter details their work thus far, makes some initial recommendations, and lays out a goal for the delivery of their final report in August.
Work on this issue is too important to delay, and with Commencement less than three weeks away it is vital not to lose our momentum. We will continue to press on with our work through the summer months. In the interim, based on input from individual faculty, staff and students, the work done to date by the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC) and the Sexual Assault Task Force, and Gina and Leslie’s preliminary recommendations, the College is committed to taking the following specific, concrete actions immediately. We hope these initial steps will serve as the basis for a shared agenda in the weeks and months ahead.
Actions Already Taken
- Earlier this month, we launched a newly revised Sexual Assault Resources & Support website. We invite your feedback as we continue our work to make it more helpful and user-friendly.
- We hired an on-campus advocate to bolster support for sexual-assault survivors. Naddia Palacios (firstname.lastname@example.org), who many of you remember as our well-regarded associate director of intercultural affairs from 2007-2010, returned to campus on April 22 to begin work at Emmons Health Center.
- As we move forward with policy revision, we will ensure that we inform our campus of all changes. I expect our new policy to incorporate the changes we have already put in place regarding limitations on the scope of appeal and protocols for issuing email alerts to notify the community when a sexual assault has been reported.
- We have authorized the addition of a Title IX Coordinator as a full-time, professional position reporting directly to the President, effective immediately. Dean Avery, Senior Associate Dean O’Neal Howard and I all agree that a separate, independent position -- as is found on other campuses -- will provide the kind of oversight required. A national search begins immediately, with the goal of having a new person in place this fall. In the meantime, we will move quickly to name an interim coordinator who will lead the College’s efforts over the summer months.
- We created an anonymous suggestion box to solicit comments about sexual-assault issues from anyone in the campus community. Comments from the suggestion box will go directly to Gina and Leslie and will inform their review. We will continue to use the anonymous suggestion box as a platform for comments and feedback after the work of our consultants is completed.
- In light of recent concerns about the role played by legal counsel, Carl Botterud has voluntarily recused himself from providing advice or guidance on any matters related to sexual harassment or misconduct cases. I agree that this decision is in the best interest of the College at this time. The College will rely upon a local attorney who will serve as interim outside counsel with respect to these matters.
- We will create a structured sexual-assault program at Orientation that reflects our revised policies and procedures. We will incorporate the work of the Sexual Assault Task Force and solicit the active participation of our advocate, Naddia, OSAC, Occidental Men Against Rape (OMAR), Project SAFE and other groups.
- We will begin the evaluation of platforms for a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week sexual-assault hotline and an implementation plan to have it in place this fall.
- I will join members of senior leadership in Peace Over Violence training to improve our understanding of sexual-assault issues.
- We will complete a comprehensive revision of sexual-misconduct policies and procedures. This revision, which is already underway, will incorporate OSAC’s 12 Demands, the excellent research contained in its 80-point matrix, as well as the work of Gina and Leslie. The goal is to have a new policy in place by the beginning of the fall semester. The campus community will then have the opportunity to offer feedback and suggestions.
- A standing committee of faculty, staff and students will start this fall to regularly review sexual-misconduct policy. Faculty Council has already agreed to select faculty members to serve on the new committee.
- We will create a comprehensive educational program that begins at Orientation and continues throughout each student’s entire experience at Oxy. Developing such a program will be one of the principal responsibilities of the new Title IX Coordinator in consultation with the new standing committee on sexual assault.
- We will recommit ourselves to a regular and consistent training program for everyone involved in the campus response to sexual assault – faculty, students, and staff – to be led this fall by the new Title IX Coordinator.
- Effective this fall, Project SAFE will have four programming assistants, double the current number.
I am convinced that we will look back on 2013 as the year in which there was a significant shift in the culture of colleges and universities across the country. Community members are challenging a culture of complacency toward sexual assault. Difficult as it has been, I am grateful to OSAC and other committed community members, including students, staff and faculty, for challenging Occidental to do better -- and we will do better.
As Oxy’s president I am the person ultimately responsible for the safety of all of our students. I take the concerns that have been raised by our community very seriously, and I am committed to dedicating the necessary time and resources to make Oxy a leader on this issue. We have a profound obligation to live up to our institutional values in all aspects of campus life, and ensure that Oxy is a place where everyone feels safe and valued.
Click here to read previous letters to the campus
- Phone: (323) 259-2691
- Email: email@example.com