Presidents of Reed

Colin S. Diver’s speeches, letters, and articles

To: The Reed Community

From: Colin S. Diver

Date: April 21, 2011

Over the past few weeks there have been heated discussions across campus about the subject of sexual assault at Reed College, including some pointed criticisms of the procedures used by the college to prevent and respond to sexual assault. These discussions have occurred against the backdrop of a national conversation on this topic. Recently the Obama administration sent an advisory letter to all federally-aided educational institutions, outlining their legal obligations under federal law to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault. We are reviewing that letter carefully with our attorneys to assure that our policies are fully in accordance with its requirements, and we will immediately address any areas of noncompliance. Compliance with federal law is merely the minimum standard to which we must hold ourselves. To the extent that our current procedures and policies fail to provide optimal protection and support to members of this community, we must and will improve those procedures and policies.

On August 31, 2010, I convened an Ad-Hoc Committee on Sexual Assault, chaired by Ariadna García-Bryce and composed of faculty, staff, and students. I charged the committee to evaluate our current practices for both preventing sexual assault and responding to claims of sexual assault, applying the standard of national best practices. The committee published a letter in the February 25, 2011, edition of the Quest describing its work and is expected to issue its report and recommendations shortly. We will promptly publish a full copy of the committee’s report on our website, with an invitation to community members to comment on its findings and recommendations.

We have not been sitting idly awaiting the committee’s report. During the past year, the college has taken the following steps:

  • We created a comprehensive response protocol for residence life staff that includes a checklist to ensure that faculty and staff members offer the full range of  support and response options to survivors, including access to, and assistance in contacting, the Portland Police Bureau, the Reed Health & Counseling Center, and the Judicial Board.
  • We conducted special training for Judicial Board members using national best practices regarding the adjudication of sexual assault allegations.
  • We hosted a summit that brought together staff members from residence life, community safety, and health & counseling with experts from the Portland Women’s Crisis Line and a sexual assault nurse examiner to review our response procedures and resources for survivors.
  • We brought experts on sexual assault to campus in fall 2010 and spring 2011 for all-campus presentations.
  • We instituted a state-of-the-art online sexual assault prevention module for incoming students.
  • We sent a delegation of six staff members and students to a national conference, sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, on intervention procedures to prevent and combat sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking on campus.
  • We conducted a training retreat with staff from the Portland Women’s Crisis Line to develop peer educators on campus, who will in turn provide ongoing education to the campus community.
  • We hired a student intern to assist in the coordination of the student-led sexual assault task force, which has sponsored such initiatives as new member training, a workshop on healthy sexuality, and the “We Care” campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault. The group is in the process of creating healthy relationship posters and a video regarding the college’s response to sexual assault.
  • We are creating an effective consent poster, due out next week.
  • We are in the process of reviewing and revising Reed’s web content providing survivors with the most up-to-date information about options and procedures.

I have also asked the Judicial Board advisors, Nora McLaughlin and Keith Karoly, to send a message to the entire community explaining aspects of the Judicial Board process that have been the focus of debate and criticism, including the alternatives and accommodations that are available to anyone bringing an Honor Case before the J-Board. Their letter will also summarize the outcome of every case involving allegations of sexual assault decided by the J-Board in the past five years.

In a letter to the Quest, Gary Granger has shared information about the allegations of sexual assault that have been brought to the attention of community safety during this past academic year. Gary’s letter also explains Reed’s commitment to following the survivor’s wishes, and the support that Reed provides to students who would like our assistance in reporting incidents of sexual assault to the police.

I know that many members of the community (including me) were disappointed that the April 4 Reed Union on the Honor Principle failed specifically to address issues of sexual assault. To help fill that need, a community-wide forum on sexual assault has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, at 5:30 p.m. in Vollum lecture hall. I, along with other representatives of the college, will be present to help answer questions and listen to recommendations. All members of the Reed community are encouraged to attend and to share their views and their concerns.

Effective education, prevention, care for survivors, and adjudication of sexual assault cases require a community-wide effort in which every one of us has a responsibility. But as president, I have a special responsibility, and I intend to do everything in my power to prevent sexual assault in this community and to assist all survivors of sexual assault in obtaining the help they need.

I sincerely hope this letter will help clarify our process and bring us a step closer to building a community dedicated to working together to solve a problem that deeply affects all of us.

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