Dear Willamette community,
The conversations that have taken place this week initiated by the publication of the Sigma Chi Facebook pages have raised issues that go well beyond the postings themselves. All of us have been very concerned about reports that sexual assault cases have been mishandled on campus. President Thorsett has asked me as the Title IX coordinator to investigate the situation and suggest a course of action.
Of particular concern is the sense that sexual assault is common on campus and there are barriers to effective reporting and response. In recent years we have not seen an increase in reports to campus offices, and student survey data (National College Health Assessment) completed by 506 CLA students during spring term 2013 have shown an incidence of sexual assault in our community at the 2% level, the same level reported in 2010, and well below national survey averages.
While of course any number of such incidents is unacceptable, we do not understand the discrepancy between these data and anecdotal reports.
Willamette has excellent, well-trained professional staff, committed to responding to student reports of sexual assault and assuring survivors receive the support and care they need. Our policies are regularly reviewed and are considered to be in alignment with best practices. Every report of sexual assault receives appropriate follow-up.
I am very concerned by the possibility that there may be a significant number of assaults that are missed in our reporting systems and surveys, or that students are not reporting assaults.
Therefore, President Thorsett has asked me and Margaret Trout to assemble a working group to assess and review these issues and identify opportunities to improve the system. Beyond issues with reporting, we've also been asked to assess campus support services for survivors of sexual assault.
The working group will include representation from students, faculty and staff and work in consultation with an independent third-party organization such as the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force that could support the working group and provide an independent review of our policies and communications strategies. President Thorsett has asked us to assemble the group immediately, and that we deliver a report and recommendations as soon as practicable. Given the urgency, if you would like to nominate someone to serve, please forward names to me by Monday, May 13th.
Title IX Coordinator