Working Group on Sexual Assault and Harassment

Dear Willamette community,

I am pleased to share with you Sexual Safety At Willamette University: Findings and Recommendations, the final report of the President's Working Group on Sexual Assault and Harassment. 

I have read the report and discussed it with the working group members, and I encourage you to read it as well. It is a comprehensive and useful assessment of the current state of sexual safety and campus climate, including a series of thoughtful recommendations across several areas of university activity.

It most notably reiterates that Willamette will not tolerate sexual harassment or violence, and that, although they are realities in every community everywhere, Willamette University is committed to being at the forefront of institutions confronting these issues as essential to fostering a supportive and safe teaching and learning community.

I wanted to let you know that I agree with all of the working group's recommendations, including those that require reporting back to the campus community in one year, and conducting another campus climate assessment and reporting back in two years. We will embark on implementing the recommendations right away, although there are a few that may require additional study and discussion.

To that end, I have distributed the report to the deans and vice presidents on the Administrative Council and asked them to report to me at the end of May 2014 about next steps for addressing the recommendations that fall into each of their respective areas. I also requested that, in the fall of 2014, they provide me with a summary of what they have accomplished.

You may or may not be aware of the following enhancements to the university's resources in support of addressing sexual harassment and violence that were already in the works in response to the first U.S. Dept. of Ed's Dear Colleague letter in 2011, implemented during or prior to this academic year:

  • Creation of the Director of Educational Equity Assurance/Deputy Title IX Coordinator position to support Title IX and VAWA compliance, and to aid in the investigation and resolution of cases of sexual misconduct (Cynthia Stinson).
  • Creation of the Director of Community Education position in Campus Life charged with developing education and outreach programs on broad set of wellness initiatives, starting with the roll-out of Green Dot bystander intervention programming (Carli Rohner)
  • Creation of our online sexual misconduct reporting form, www.willamette.edu/sexualmisconduct/
  • Investigation and acquisition of new online sexual misconduct and other incidents reporting software from Maxient that is much more user-friendly, nimble, and capable than what we are currently using; launches fall 2014.
  • Creation in Campus Life of a new standing student committee, the Student Advisory Council on Sexual Misconduct, to improve communication between students and administrators related to sexual safety.
  • Review of Opening Days programming.

This is why you will not see specific recommendations of this nature in the final report; plus, some of the functional solutions recommended in the report fall into the purview of these previously-established positions and activities.

I am very grateful for the time and effort the working group members dedicated to executing the charge. The full roster of those who participated is on the web page linked above.

In addition to students, staff, and faculty, the committee benefited from the active involvement of community groups including the Salem Police Department, the Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service, Marion County Victim's Assistance, and the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, and I know I speak for everyone at Willamette in thanking them for their efforts on our behalf. I want to personally thank the co-chairs of the task force, Margaret Trout and Kristen Grainger, who successfully guided the year's work.

I am committed to putting the hard work of the working group to good use on behalf of the university community.

Sincerely,

Steve Thorsett
President