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Update Following Department Chairs Meeting

From: Margaret N. Freije, Provost and Dean of the College
To: Faculty
Re: Update following department chairs meeting
Date: Feb. 10, 2019


Colleagues,

At Friday’s meeting of the department chairs and independent multidisciplinary directors, we discussed some of what has been happening at the College this semester.

I wanted to share some of this with you and I encourage you to speak with your department chair about Friday’s meeting.

It goes without saying that this has been a very difficult year for the College. We all are and should be angry that any student would be harassed by a faculty member. We all should be angry that any student would sexually assault another student. We all should be angry if victims of sexual misconduct and discriminatory harassment believe that they have nowhere to turn.

Our students, through the ENGAGE summit and through their protest at the beginning of last week, have called us to be better. They are right. We should be better. We must do better.

The AGC recently announced the formation of an ad hoc committee on faculty sexual misconduct with a mandate to review the recent case of Professor Dustin, to review procedures for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty members and to review overall Title IX policies and procedures. I am grateful to Miles Cahill, Speaker of the Faculty, and the members of the AGC for their leadership in this situation. The President has met with Miles to discuss how this review will inform the larger Title IX review announced by the President last December.

The students participating in the protest have made several demands. The President, Jane Corr, Michele Murray and I have met with the student leaders. As you know, the President sent a letter to all students acknowledging their concerns and apologizing for the pain they have experienced. Members of the Executive Team are continuing to work with the student leaders to determine next steps.

I have agreed to take the following steps:

  • I will be bringing to the AGC a proposed policy for the removal of faculty awards. This policy, if approved by the AGC, will be included in the Faculty Handbook.
  • I have made myself available to meet individually or in groups with students, particularly the students in the Montserrat class that Prof. Dustin taught last semester.
  • I will be submitting a request to the AGC and the ad hoc committee for a review of specific questions and concerns regarding what standards are appropriate for the application of interim measures pending an investigation of a professor, what sanctions are appropriate for faculty members found responsible for violation of the sexual misconduct or discriminatory harassment policies, and, more generally, procedures for applying sanctions to faculty and the appropriate incorporation into the Statutes of the Faculty of AAUP recommendations in this area.

I know there is frustration with the process for addressing faculty misconduct. In particular there are questions about the length of time to complete an investigation and produce a finding, decisions regarding interim measures and final sanctions, and the process for making these decisions. Our existing policies and procedures are being tested, and there are likely to be changes that we will want to make for the future. The President has committed to an overall review of Title IX policies and procedures that will include the input of students, faculty and staff.

Many of you may have other questions and concerns. I urge you to be in touch with the ad hoc committee appointed by the AGC to ask those questions. These are important matters that require careful and deliberative processing through the governance structures of the faculty, as well as the shared governance structures of the College. We must follow our policies and procedures and we must have policies and procedures that are credible to the community.

The College will be administering a campus climate survey to students, faculty and staff this semester. This is an opportunity for members of our community to express their concerns about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as sexual respect in our campus culture. Many of you have your own questions and concerns about overall campus climate regarding issues of sexual respect and broader issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. I urge you to express these questions and concerns to members of the two planning groups that are being formed by the President.

We have much work to do as a community. I have much work to do as Provost. We have a responsibility to our current, former and future students to hold one another accountable for this work. I pray that we can do this work always with a commitment to upholding the dignity of each member of the community and with a goal of creating a community that supports the flourishing of all its members.

Margaret