The following message was sent to the Randolph community on August 15.
Dear Randolph Community,
Earlier this week, I communicated to alumnae and alumni about posts that were shared on social media by alumnae concerning sexual assaults they allege were committed during their time at the College. As I said in the previous letter, the College has worked hard during the past seven years to expand our Title IX program and promote a culture of respect on campus. We do investigate every allegation of sexual assault that is presented to us, for which we have jurisdiction, and we are in full compliance with the law.
But if we have learned anything in the last week, it’s that we need to do more. We can be better, and we are grateful to our alumnae and alumni for having the courage to point this out to us.
We are committed to making improvements, enacting change, and ensuring that our campus community is one where students always feel safe and respected. As such, we want to engage with you—our full community—to help us in this process. Your life experiences matter. Your thoughts and ideas matter. You matter. And, together, we can and will be able to make a difference.
We continue to read your stories and we are listening. And we hurt for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. We have a responsibility to acknowledge and respect the courage that it takes to publicly share these painful memories. This institution has always taught its students to speak up for what they believe is right. This week, we have seen you stand with one another with compassion and strength.
Most importantly, we hear you.
In my Tuesday letter, I noted federal law forebears me from discussing any allegations that involve student records. But what we can talk about are the efforts that are in place now to combat sexual misconduct—and our sincere commitment to do more.
We have made significant efforts over the past seven years to bring our policies fully into compliance with Title IX and to improve our campus culture. The Human Resources Office, which administers our Title IX program, has created a Title IX team. This team helps to disseminate campus-wide information about Title IX and is available to answer questions and concerns raised. We have also developed a Campus Advocates program to work with any member of the community who has been assaulted. Sharon Saunders, the director of human resources and Title IX coordinator, and Kris Irwin, the director of campus safety, regularly attend training programs on the evolving interpretation of Title IX, and numerous other staff members receive regular training as well.
Every new student receives training during a special session of orientation on the topic of healthy relationships. This session helps students recognize elements of unhealthy relationships, defines what consent means, defines sexual assault, and discusses what acts constitute sexual assault through a legal lens. It also shares resources about reporting, including to whom a student can report an act of sexual assault or misconduct. In addition to this session, students are required to complete an online prevention and education program on healthy and respectful relationships during their first semester at college. Last year, we added a requirement that all juniors complete the online prevention and education program (a second time). Each athlete on every varsity team at the College must complete an annual training approved by the NCAA. In addition, Davenport Leaders, head residents, Randolph Programming Board members, and resident assistants also receive Bystander Intervention and Mandated Reporter training each fall. These training sessions prepare student leaders to actively listen when an act of sexual assault or misconduct is being reported. The student leader in turn serves as a catalyst for connecting the reporting student to the Title IX office on campus, which will process the claim. In addition, each year we have many activities on campus during Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Week aimed at the prevention of sexual assault.
So, what are our next steps? I am creating a standing committee to examine our current programming and to recommend additional work we can do to improve campus culture on consent and respect. This committee will include representatives from the student body, alumnae and alumni, faculty, staff, and athletics. Though we currently have a webpage for our Title IX efforts, in the coming weeks, we will be expanding this space to serve as a resource for communication, education, awareness, and engagement. We have created an email address (titleIX@randolphcollege.edu) for alumnae and alumni to send any Title IX concerns.
One thing I would like to address is the recent social media discussion that has occurred around this issue. Because the original posts named individuals associated with these allegations, we were unable to facilitate an online discussion due to defamation and liability concerns. However, we do understand how important it is to give everyone a voice and a space to express concerns. This dialogue is important, and it is one reason we created the mechanism for alumni to report any claims to the College. This direct communication provides a format that allows us to more effectively respond.
We believe conversations about sexual assault are important for everyone. This is why we do plan to post this message to our social media. However, due to the sensitive nature and the potential for legal liabilities, we will be strictly enforcing our social media policies. These can be located here. We want to be upfront that comments or posts that do violate these policies, particularly those that identify individuals, will be removed. We hope that by opening these channels of communication, our community will be able to engage in civil discourse that will create positive change for all of us.
Our priority has always been the safety and well-being of our students, and this will never change. This is particularly true for those who have been the victims of sexual assault. These individuals have been through a devastating experience, and they are looking for—and deserve—our help and support. We have an obligation not only to provide that support, but also to do everything within our power to create an environment where sexual assault is not tolerated. It is our hope that as a community we can join together to provide understanding, healing, and support for those among us who have had to deal with the heartbreaking and life-changing effects of sexual assault.
This is just the beginning of our efforts, and I felt it was important to share the steps we plan to take immediately and to assure you that we are hearing your concerns. Look for more communications in the near future as we begin to implement these changes. There is hard work in front of us, but with your help, we can enact changes that will make Randolph College a better place for the future.
Bradley W. Bateman