May 28, 2020

To the Williams Community,

Every spring I write to the community with an annual summary of our work to prevent and respond to sexual and intimate violence. Even in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, Williams remains deeply committed to the goal of fostering and sustaining a safe community for all of our members. When members of our community are harmed, we seek to provide the resources they need in order to achieve accountability, healing, and support.

As in the past, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many students, staff, faculty, and alumni who work to improve our prevention and response efforts. Addressing the problem of sexual and intimate violence requires the commitment and engagement of everyone who cares about Williams and our community. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to that effort.

Current initiatives

This year, we continued our efforts to improve the implementation of no-contact orders.  The two documents we created last year – an NCO FAQ sheet and an NCO checklist (click here) – are now being implemented in all cases involving no contact orders.  These innovations provide students with much more detailed guidelines and expectations about how NCOs work on a small residential campus, and have helped us more fully deliver on our intention of providing harmed students with as much safety and security as possible.

The Department of Education just released their new regulations governing campus sexual assault under Title IX. Colleges and universities will be required to comply with the regulations by August 14.  We are currently in the process of determining how to best comply with the new regulations while affirming our fundamental principles of providing a safe and secure community for all of our members, protecting students who have been harmed by sexual misconduct, and ensuring adjudication processes that are fair and equitable.

Prevention

The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response has continued to offer an expanded range of programming and prevention initiatives in the ‘19-20 school year. The Office’s Director, Meg Bossong ‘05, and Violence Prevention Coordinator, Hannah Lipstein, have been busy maintaining existing programming initiatives and introducing new content in response to student needs. Meg and Hannah led approximately 60 different training sessions and workshops for students and staff in the school year prior to our COVID closure, offering curriculum on consent, bystander intervention, healthy relationships, boundaries, hookup culture, supporting survivors, accountability, and more. This year, they offered training to each of our NCAA athletic teams, creating individualized workshops for each group and training approximately 30% of the Williams student body through athletics alone. Hannah continues to expand the office’s LGBQT-specific prevention education, and the Office also partnered with the Davis Center to develop a new curriculum that helps students articulate shared values and build structures of accountability in friend groups, student organizations, and on teams.

Formal reporting and disciplinary process

Making a formal report and engaging the college disciplinary process is one option available to those who experience harm. I summarize students’ use of this process below. Even when students choose not to pursue a disciplinary process in response to intimate violence or harassment, there are a number of other systems and resources in place to provide support.

Support, safety, and services

Talking with someone who can listen and make connections to useful resources is an essential part of healing and accountability. In addition, Williams can provide or connect to assistance for a wide array of specific concerns, including finding a different room to live in, feeling safe around campus, navigating relationships after experiencing violence, and managing assignments or class attendance. Nobody should feel that they must contend with any of these challenges on their own; the Title IX Coordinator (Toya Camacho, Assistant Vice President of Institutional Diversity & Equity), as well as staff in the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the deans’ office are here to help with these and any other resources or measures you need.

In the majority of instances, students can have conversations about what happened, what options are available, and what steps they are considering with any trusted college staff member without beginning a formal conduct or complaint process. This includes the Title IX Coordinator and deputies, deans, staff from the OIDE, Davis Center, Office of Student Life, and Campus Safety officers, coaches, or professors.

Confidential resources include SASS Survivor Services. SASS is staffed around the clock by staff with specific training on responding to intimate violence (Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention; Hannah Lipstein, Violence Prevention Coordinator; Claire Oxford, Admissions; Donna Denelli-Hess, Health Center; Mike Evans, Zilkha Center; Rabbi Seth Wax, Chaplains’ Office; and Alice Lee, Athletics) who can provide support, help you access resources, or offer information about on- and off-campus options. Other confidential resources on and off campus include Integrative Wellbeing and Health Services; the college chaplains; and the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which is the local rape crisis center and domestic violence organization and also has a 24/7 hotline.

2018-19 Student Cases

In the 2018-2019 school year, the college received a total of 28 reports of misconduct:

  • 17 reports of sexual misconduct;

  • 5 reports of relationship abuse;

  • 4 reports of stalking;

  • 2 reports of verbal sexual harassment

Of these 28 cases, 22 involved situations in which the person alleged to have caused harm was a current member of the college community and was therefore eligible for college accountability processes. The other 6 involved individuals who were not current members of the Williams community. In those instances, the college connected students with accountability options through other institutions or in the courts.

Among the students in the 22 cases involving Williams community members, four chose to take part in the college investigation and adjudication process. Their cases were adjudicated between July 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019. All four cases involved sexual misconduct complaints. Of these 4 cases, 2 resulted in a finding of responsibility, and 2 resulted in a finding of not responsible. Of the 2 students found responsible for sexual misconduct, one was suspended for two semesters, and one was suspended for 4 semesters.  Additionally, one student was found responsible for violating a no-contact order, and was placed on disciplinary probation.

Category of Conduct

Cases Pursued in Discipline Process/
Total Eligible Cases Received

Findings of Responsibility

Sexual misconduct

4/14

2

Relationship abuse

0/3

n/a

Stalking

0/3

n/a

Sexual Harassment

0/2

n/a

Occasionally an adjudication process continues past the cutoff date for reporting on the academic year within which the case was reported. In such instances, we include the case in reporting data for the year during which adjudication was completed.

I also want to point out that individuals who have not yet chosen to pursue an investigation and adjudication process still have that option available to them as long as the person they might be lodging a complaint against is still a current student, staff member, or faculty member. The college does not have the authority to hold individuals accountable once they are no longer members of the community (for example, after they graduate, transfer, or terminate their employment at Williams). In those situations, individuals still have the option of lodging a complaint with law enforcement until the applicable statute of limitations is reached.

In closing, I want to again thank everyone working to improve our prevention and response efforts.

Sincerely,
Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

All of Williams’ policies and information about resources for support of students, staff, and faculty can be found at http://titleix.williams.edu/