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Concerns about the national pandemic of sexual and relationship violence on college campuses and how that is impacting Hampshire College led President Lash to charge an advisory council to review current policies and practices involving these issues. The council’s work has taken place over fall 2016 and spring 2017, and our mission was two-fold: assess the measures currently in place and identify areas for improvement. The members of the council have deliberated about ways to strengthen the college's efforts in the following areas: education and prevention, adjudication, support, and communication. The council wishes to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the members of the Title IX team and other support services on campus; together we have provided a solid foundation in compliance with federal mandates and in many cases, go beyond what is required by law.
The council has gathered input from a wide range of community members. We conducted a survey sent to all students, staff, and faculty. Members of the council met with academic schools, student life staff, admissions, and financial aid. The council co-chairs met with members of the Monday Group as well as the board of trustees. Our student members also spent time speaking to other students, student groups, including, but not limited to, students who work in the wellness center, RA’s, orientation leaders, and EMTs, as well as dozens of individuals and small groups. Through both the survey and conversations, the council came to a number of conclusions regarding the nature of the issues and ways to address them.
Zena Clift 90F, associate dean of academic support and advising, co-chair
Shannon DaSilva, director of survivor supports, co-chair
Jaime Davila, associate professor of computer science
Brianna Deane F15, student
Elizabeth Lazowski F13, Student
Charles Ross, associate professor of evolutionary biology
Kaylie Vezina F14, student
To begin, the council wants to be clearthat its role is not to alter or change policy, but rather to make recommendations to the President about how to be most effective in communicating to our community those policies and continue to demonstrate what the institution has and continues to accomplish to respond effectively to reports of sexual and relationship violence as well as efforts to prevent it from happening.
After weeks of discussion, we came to two conclusions. First, while there are areas for improvement, we feel confident that the College is offering sufficient resources and services. Our second major finding is that communication can be improved. More specifically, despite extensive training offered by the Title IX team and other student life staff, too few people on campus are aware of the actual details of College processes, services, and resources. Because so few people hold comprehensive and accurate information about how Hampshire handles cases of sexual and relationship violence, this leaves room for mistrust, confusion, fear of reporting, isolation, and blaming. This is compounded when details about active cases are shared by students, leading community members to have questions and make assumptions that the Title IX team is often simply unable to address to maintain student privacy and confidentiality. Some staff and faculty who responded to our survey explained that they are unclear about their roles as responsible reporters: namely, what sort of information should be reported, which individual to contact, and how to support students who disclose information of potential policy violations. There is also evidence that not all faculty and staff are reporting information that has been reported to them, and it would be helpful to have the Title IX team follow up with clear instructions.
Likewise, some students who responded to our survey remain unclear about the reporting process, the differences between confidential reporting and reporting to the Title IX team, and specifically what happens with information shared with those parties, what support resources and options exist for survivors, and our consent polices. Some students indicated varying interpretations of their experiences, leading to confusion about when and what should be reported.
To try to understand this gap in knowledge, the council looked closely at the education strategies currently in place to distribute this information. In the recommendations, we will discuss ways we believe we could improve on distributing information. Beyond mandatory new student and new employee orientation trainings, most engagement around these issues is seen by community members as an “opt in.” This has led to a culture where, despite tireless efforts the by the Title IX team and others on campus, there still remains an expectation that addressing rape culture on this campus is the work of only a few people. It is imperative we shift this narrative.
The culture outside of Hampshire in the U.S. uses a wide range of tactics to normalize rape culture, unhealthy relationships, nonconsensual/casual “hook-up” culture, pushing boundaries as a way of “courting,” unhealthy messages of masculinity and femininity, invisibility of gender non-conforming or trans experiences, conflicting messages about sex, sexual activity, and sexual health, victim blaming and minimizing survivors’ experiences. With this larger cultural backdrop, expecting students to act differently once they arrive on campus requires a commitment from our entire community. The unlearning of this harmful culture cannot happen in one conversation and cannot happen overnight. We must commit to ongoing education with buy-in from the entire community. The council acknowledges that there are diverging opinions and viewpoints in our community, but we believe that we must all agree that the levels of violence on college campuses is unacceptable, and we must all make a commitment to being a part of dismantling the systems and beliefs that allow this culture to continue. Each member of our community plays a role in thinking about how we teach consent, respecting boundaries and modeling healthy relationships through every interaction we have with one another, in addition to supporting survivors. As a council, we hope these recommendations will help create a structure to allow space for this ongoing education and dialogue to occur in order to see the culture shift we need to reduce violence on our campus and give our students tools to help dismantle this culture beyond their time at Hampshire.
Some of the recommendations provided by the council are based on programs or services that are already provided by the college, and are ones that we seek to continue. These are areas that were mentioned through the community’s feedback as measures that have been effective and helpful. In addition to preserving the important parts of work that the council believes to be effective, the council has also identified additional areas for improvement beyond what is offered currently.
Lastly, we also know that Hampshire College conducted a HEDs survey in spring of 2017. It is our recommendation that we continue to conduct that survey every 2 years and follow up on with any additional needs that arise out of those survey results.
The council believes that we must continue to provide comprehensive training to students each year. It is our recommendation that we continue to build on and deepen the conversations begun in orientation around consent, campus resources and reporting procedures both during orientation and beyond. A key component of this training includes the annual Consensual Sensual play and the small group discussions that follow it. There is widespread feedback that the play is a dynamic, powerful, and engaging way to begin conversations of this level. This is also a critical time to increase the education and visibility of support services on campus, and set the tone for discussions around our campus norms, expectations and values. In addition, the council is recommending that the online training offered to all students at the beginning of the year should be made mandatory.
We recommend that the education around these topics should be repeated frequently and when possible, tailored to the specific audience to make them most relevant to their position on campus. Students reported they were grateful for the information shared at that time, but as they continued in their time on campus, they found themselves looking for ways to keep that discussion going as topics gained deeper meaning or new questions arose with new experiences. Based on our feedback, we recommend that this education continue in small group settings where educational discussions can emerge. These settings could include classrooms, student groups, floor meetings, conversations between student workers, and other small-scale settings.
We recommend the following core topics in training programs for students:
In addition, the council makes the following recommendations regarding student training:
Faculty and staff play a key role in Hampshire’s efforts to support student survivors and in our violence prevention efforts. It is essential for them to see that they too have a responsibility for shaping our campus culture. Through our research, we have gained deeper understanding about the importance of everyday messages about healthy relationships, respectful dialogue, drawing boundaries, respecting boundaries, consent, and sentiments about campus climate and resources related to sexual and relationship violence. Notions about these take shape with every interaction our students have with each other - and with the rest of the Hampshire community. It became clear to the council that not enough Hampshire faculty and staff understand their responsibilities for reporting information, or what resources and supports are available to students.
Some staff and faculty remain unaware of recent changes to policies, procedures, and responsibilities, despite numerous campus-wide communications about these changes from the President and the Title IX team and discussions about the changes in staff and faculty meetings. In addition, we found that while new staff and faculty receive training during new employee orientation, the time given during orientation periods for this training was not sufficient for staff and faculty to learn all the relevant information needed.
Therefore, the council recommends that:
Finally, thanks to all community members for their openness and enthusiasm in responding to our inquiries. The council feels the level of caring and determination has been palpable and serves as an initial step forward to implementing the above recommendations for improvements. Already, many community members seem to be embracing the sort of commitment that we will need to affect a culture shift at Hampshire. If nothing else we know that we must move beyond leaving all the responsibility for defeating sexual violence to one group of individuals; the effort must involve the entire community. Our experience this year leaves us feeling that as a community we have the will, the expertise and the support to continue this work.