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Update on College's Review of Culture, Structure and Procedures

From: Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., President
To: Holy Cross Campus Community
March 1, 2019


 

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

As many of you depart campus for what I hope is a restorative break, I want to update you on a few items regarding the review of the College’s culture, structure and procedures to prevent future sexual misconduct and then share with you the themes that have continued to emerge in this review.

It has been a difficult start to the semester for our community. I know that many of you are upset by recent events and how they have been handled. I understand that many of you have questions you don’t think are being answered quickly enough, or satisfactorily, or at all. I am very sorry for this, but please know that members of the Executive Team and I are working hard to answer your questions and concerns and to make improvements across our campus. While some action steps can happen more quickly, there are cultural and policy questions that will take time. I want to thank you for your continued dedication to these issues and to our community, to challenging all of us to do more and do better, and to working together toward our shared goals. Please continue to share your thoughts and feedback either directly or through any of the committees or planning groups that have been set up to address these issues. We are incredibly blessed to live, learn and work in an extraordinary community of talented people who care deeply about this place and each other. I know that by working together we can become the community that we all wish to be.

Last November I updated you on the review Phil Catanzano, senior counsel at Holland Knight, has undertaken for the College. That update, and many of the action steps that we have undertaken as a result, are included on our campus climate website. Since November, Mr. Catanzano has returned to campus six additional times and conducted over 20 additional interviews. I met with him this week to discuss what he has learned from his conversations over the past three months.

The primary areas of concern raised over the past few months remain consistent with those outlined in the November update. It is clear that there is still work to be done to improve our culture and procedures as related to sexual respect and conduct.

Student Engagement: At our recent meeting, I asked Mr. Catanzano to proactively engage students in this review. A review of our campus culture cannot be considered complete if it does not reflect the student experience. While we have heard from students in multiple ways over the last seven months and they will have the opportunity to provide their thoughts through the upcoming campus climate survey, to date we have not had any students come forward to engage in this particular process. I would like Mr. Catanzano’s review and final summary report to be representative of our entire community and thus we will be working to engage student voices in this process. I have asked Dean Michele Murray to facilitate connecting students with Mr. Catanzano.

In-depth exploration of certain areas: I have asked Mr. Catanzano to explore a few areas more deeply. There are some departments and divisions about which concerns have been raised multiple times. Mr. Catanzano will be proactively reaching out to our colleagues and students in those areas to schedule time to meet over the next month or so.

Title IX process and operations: Mr. Catanzano has continued to hear from members of the community that there is dissatisfaction with the Sexual Misconduct Policy and how it operates in practice. I want to share that the College has engaged Daryl Lapp, partner at Locke Lorde, to facilitate a review of this policy. I will be appointing a core committee to work on this review after the break. The committee will consist of administrators, students and faculty, including members of the ad hoc Academic Governance Council committee to review sexual misconduct. In addition, the Sexual Respect and Conduct Planning Group will be making recommendations on how we can better support students who are involved in incidents of sexual misconduct as well as on how we can better coordinate and provide prevention education and training to all members of our campus community.

Communication:  I anticipate that Mr. Catanzano’s review will be complete by the end of this semester. I recognize the need for consistent and action-oriented communication, which a few of you also brought up to Mr. Catanzano, and I will continue to update you as we have new information. I will share a report with resulting action items when the review is complete. We will not wait until the review is complete to address the issues and opportunities that arise in this review. Steps have been taken in response to our findings to date, many of which are laid out on our campus climate website. As we continue with this review and our other work related to sexual respect and Title IX as well as diversity, equity and inclusion, my goal is to keep you informed of findings, recommendations and action steps throughout our processes.

The other main findings from this most recent update from Mr. Catanzano and the ways in which the College is responding to them are summarized below:

●      Individuals continue to raise concerns regarding institutional or department oversight over College employees as well as student/faculty/staff activities.

One of the hallmarks of the Holy Cross experience is the close, supportive and mentoring environment in which our students live and learn. We can preserve this experience while strengthening existing oversight over our activities. We must develop clear directives for how faculty and staff interact with students in less structured environments, such as in tutorials or directed studies, small programs, in non-working hours, and off campus activities, such as trips for academic, co-curricular or athletic purposes. And all members of our community must be informed about these directives. I am asking Denielle Burl, who oversees policy creation at the College, to lead a coordinated effort across academic affairs, student affairs, athletics, the chaplains office and any other areas where these issues come into play to improve this aspect of College life.

●      Many individuals reported that they were aware of potentially relevant information or concerns, which they had not reported  to the Title IX Office.

We must begin a conversation about why people are hesitant or reticent to report to the Title IX office. I understand that there are many reasons why it is difficult to bring forward reports of such information forward. We know we need to build trust in the process. To keep our community safe and prevent discrimination and harassment, however, information needs to be shared. This is the basis for faculty and staff being “responsible employees” for reporting purposes under our policies. Even incomplete or “old” information may assist in an investigation and I urge individuals not to assume that information has been or will be reported by others. And please know we will continue to enforce our policy against retaliation against any individual for making a report in good faith.

●      There are opportunities to improve or add additional security measures or surveillance to the Luth Athletic Complex.

Our new Athletics space has been designed so that all offices have visual access. Additionally we have policies in place such that College staff accompanies athletes to any meetings with outside physicians and trainers and equivalent staff have appropriate certifications, credentials and background checks completed. However, given the sheer size of the Luth Athletic Complex and its relative open access with athletes and coaches accessing the building at non-traditional hours, we are assessing the opportunity for additional security or cameras in the facility. Please note that we are not considering cameras in locker rooms, changing rooms or training rooms, but in public areas which may be darkened during off-hours.

●      Some faculty and staff expressed concern about where to report employee concerns, not related to Title IX, and how to ensure impartial and fair treatment.

All faculty and staff should expect and receive fair and impartial treatment when they express concerns or report possible policy violations. There are many ways in which faculty and staff can report concerns about bias, discrimination or other violations of College policies. In addition to the Human Resources Office, the College has a very clear whistleblower policy that allows for reporting of suspected violations of policies to either the General Counsel or the Chair of the Board of Trustees’ Audit Committee. This policy strictly prohibits retaliation.

I hope this update is helpful and I thank you once again for your engagement in this important work.

Sincerely,

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
President