Colin S. Diver’s speeches, letters, and articles
August 23, 2011
Dear Reed Community,
In recent years, the problem of sexual assault on American college campuses has received widespread attention from government agencies, news media, and engaged activists around the country. We at Reed College have come in for our share of attention and criticism on this score. Last April, Reed's Ad-Hoc Committee on Sexual Assault (COSA), consisting of faculty, staff, and students, issued a detailed report and recommendations following a year-long study of the issue. Even before COSA issued its report, a group of committed students demanded that the college take stronger action to combat this problem. A majority of the student body signed a petition supporting this demand. Over 40 faculty members signed a similar petition. Two community-wide forums were held to enable members of the community to ask questions, express their views, and propose remedial actions.
In response to this forceful and thoughtful advocacy, I committed to take immediate steps to strengthen Reed's efforts to prevent and respond to claims of sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct. Over the past several months we have made significant progress on this front, and I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on that progress.
1. Confidentiality and disclosure. Last April, thanks to student advocacy, we learned that the confidentiality requirements of our disciplinary process were not in compliance with a federal regulation. That regulation requires that, in any student disciplinary case alleging a "sex offense," the "accuser" and the "accused" have a right to publicly disclose the "outcome" of the case—that is, the identity of the accused, the violations found (if any), and the sanctions imposed (if any). Upon learning of this noncompliance, we immediately modified our confidentiality procedures to comply with this provision. We changed the language of the confidentiality agreement that parties to disciplinary proceedings must sign; I personally notified the accuser(s) and accused in every case decided since the effective date of the federal regulation (January 2009) of their right to publicly disclose outcome information, and we put in place a procedure to make sure that a similar notification is given in all future cases.
2. Adjudicative process. Many participants in last spring's debate focused their harshest criticism on the fact that Reed uses an all-student judicial board to adjudicate cases of alleged sexual assault. COSA, the student petition, and the Student Senate all called for the creation of a new mechanism to adjudicate such cases. Over the summer we have been working with the chair of the Community Affairs Committee to prepare a draft proposal to establish a new hearing board for sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases. We intend to submit the proposal to the Student Senate and the faculty at the earliest practical date in the fall semester.
3. Staffing. In response to recommendations by COSA , the student petition, and the faculty petition, we created a new high-level staff position in student services, titled Assistant Dean of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. The occupant of this new position will coordinate sexual assault prevention programs, including educational resources for students, staff, and faculty; design and implement sexual assault response protocols; gather, interpret, and prepare data to inform and improve programmatic efforts; and collaborate with campus groups and committees to ensure the quality of Reed's sexual assault prevention and response resources, including compliance with local, state, and federal statutes. We launched the search to fill this position in July and expect to make an appointment in the near future.
4. Website. We have significantly improved resources on the college's website to describe all on-campus and off-campus legal, medical, and therapeutic options available to survivors.
5. Response protocols. In collaboration with local and state officials as well as experts in the law enforcement, advocacy, and medical professions from across the country, the student services staff has refined its response protocols and enhanced its training programs. Our goal is to ensure that any student reporting a sexual assault will receive compassionate, timely, and relevant information and support, including expedited referral to police and local hospitals if the student so wishes.
6. Substance abuse. The discussion last spring reminded us that the problem of sexual assault cannot be adequately addressed without also addressing substance abuse. This connection was highlighted in the COSA report and is confirmed by recent Judicial Board cases. At the town meeting last April, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Don Reese called alcohol "the number one date rape drug." Recognizing this linkage, we are continuing to educate the community about this connection and strengthen our recent efforts to combat the abuse of alcohol and other drugs at Reed. The dean of students, in collaboration with community safety, is drafting a statement specifying the concrete actions that will be taken in response to violations of the college's Drug and Alcohol Policy. The statement will be circulated to the community in the near future and implemented in the coming year.
Sexual assault is intolerable in this or any other community. At the personal level, it is a violation of autonomy and integrity that can leave deep and permanent scars. At the community level, it is a violation of the trust that enables us to engage in the collective enterprise of learning and discovery. The voices of those who demand that more be done to combat sexual assault have been heard. Together, we must do more, and we will do more to create the kind of community in which every person is treated with dignity, compassion, and respect.
Colin S. Diver