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Update from President Lash on Title IX Compliance Review by Office for Civil Rights

Hampshire has entered into a resolution agreement that outlines steps it has taken and will take to address and prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus

In July 2014, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated a Title IX compliance review. Throughout the review, Hampshire worked collaboratively with OCR to provide information and to enhance our Title IX program. This month, Hampshire entered into a resolution agreement with OCR, which, along with its letter of findings outlines specific steps the College will take to continue to foster a safe community as we work to address and prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus. While OCR made some findings about the College’s prior policies and procedures as written, OCR made no findings of non-compliance with Title IX in the implementation of any of our policies or procedures.

In its letter of findings and agreement, OCR recognized the College’s committed and proactive actions to address those concerns in real-time, both during the course of the more than three-year review and in the final stages of resolution.  The College has already made the textual revisions to its policies required by the agreement and has submitted them for OCR’s review.

At the outset of the review, I met with OCR investigators and committed to using the review as an opportunity to learn and grow, and assured OCR that Hampshire would be transparent and collaborative in working with their team. We delivered on those commitments throughout, and enhanced our policies and practices over the past three years.

OCR’s review covered the College’s policies and procedures on sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, including our response to reports of sexual assault. The review was not prompted by any individual complaint against Hampshire. From the start, we have endeavored to be proactive in updating our policies and processes to incorporate the evolving Federal law and guidance and to reflect practices that are fair and balanced for all parties. I am proud of the work of the Title IX team through this process.

The resolution of this compliance review does not mean the College’s work is done. We will continually improve our efforts to provide the most current education, training, prevention initiatives, and practices in responding to complaints of sexual violence and harassment. This is vital work, and it is the responsibility of everyone in our community. It will always be a priority for us. In a related initiative, Hampshire is currently implementing a series of recommendations made by our students, faculty, and staff on the College’s Advisory Council on Sexual Misconduct and Campus Safety.

In addition, I am convening a committee to examine what policies Hampshire should put in place to address historical incidents of sexual harassment involving individuals no longer at the College. I am asking the committee, whose membership will include our Title IX coordinator, to develop recommendations for responding to such complaints, including an understanding of what remedies may now be available in those matters. I will keep you posted on this work. I want to recognize the #MeToo movement for bringing to light the experiences of millions who have been subjected to inappropriate and illegal behaviors that occurred in the past, mostly from individuals who were in a position of power or influence over their careers. I salute the bravery of those who are speaking out. They will change our culture for the better.

I hope you will take time to review Hampshire College’s Title IX website, which provides information about the policies, procedures, and resources available to our community.

As always, we encourage community members to contact our Title IX coordinator, Dianna Williams, if you have questions, concerns, complaints, or are seeking support, at dwilliams@hampshire.edu or (413) 559-5442.  I am grateful to the students, faculty and staff at Hampshire who have stepped forward to embrace these issues, who contribute to Hampshire’s diverse and vibrant community, and I look forward to our continued partnership.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Lash

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