April 10, 2017

Dear Williams Community,

This report summarizes Williams’ policies and work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. It includes data on gender-based violence complaints and outcomes for the academic year 2015–16 (see “2015–16 Data”, below).

Gender-based violence policies and procedures

When Williams offers our students educational opportunities, we also need to provide a safe and supportive community from which they can explore these opportunities, make choices, take chances, and grow. Gender-based violence not only prevents our students from taking advantage of the education Williams offers them, it also fundamentally undermines the safety of the entire community.

Over the past five years the College has significantly expanded our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault, relationship abuse, stalking, exploitation, and retaliation. We have further to go before reaching our goal of eliminating gender-based violence. Until then, we are committed to providing comprehensive support to anyone who is harmed, and ensuring fair and equitable accountability processes for those who have harmed others. These efforts are described on Williams’ Title IX website.

The College can only address sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence if we know about incidents that occur. With this in mind, we designate nearly all employees as “responsible employees.” Under federal law, responsible employees are required to report any incidence of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, relationship abuse, or stalking to our Title IX coordinators as soon as they become aware of it. We use the information from these reports to reach out to those affected and offer support and resources, including options for on-campus investigation and disciplinary processes and off-campus legal processes.  Reporting information also allows us to identify possible patterns of abuse so that we can target our prevention and intervention work in ways that keep our community safe.

While responsible employees must report all incidents, the college does not require a person affected by gender-based violence to pursue an investigation. Restoring a sense of agency and empowerment is an important part of the recovery process, and Williams gives individuals who have been harmed the choice of whether to pursue an investigation. We make exceptions to this practice only if we discover a pattern of abuse, or have reason to believe others may be in danger if we do not act. In these cases, we will advise the person affected and offer them further support before pursuing an independent investigation. To understand when this standard applies, please see the Confidentiality and Privacy page of the Title IX website.

Toya Camacho, Williams’ Title IX Coordinator and Assistant Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity, manages the campus investigation and accountability processes. The Title IX website describes the work done by Toya and other members of the Williams Title IX team. If you have been affected or know someone who has, this website is where you should go to learn about the resources available to help you.

 

2015–16 Data

In the 2015-2016 school year, the college received a total of twenty-one formal reports of misconduct: eleven reports of sexual assault, four reports of relationship abuse, three reports of stalking, and three reports of exploitation. Of these twenty-one cases, fourteen involved situations in which the person alleged to have caused harm was a member of the College community, and were therefore eligible for College accountability processes. The other seven involved individuals who were not members of the Williams community.  In these instances, the College helped our students understand how to access accountability processes at other institutions or in the courts.

Of the fourteen cases involving Williams community members, nine students have chosen to take part in the college investigation and adjudication process to date. This includes five sexual assault complaints, two cases involving relationship abuse, and two involving exploitation. Individuals who have not yet made the choice to pursue an investigation and adjudication process will continue to have that option as long as the person against whom they are lodging a complaint is still a member of the college community. The College has no way to hold individuals accountable once they are no longer members of the community (e.g. after graduation, transfer, etc.), but a complaint may still be lodged with law enforcement until the applicable statute of limitations is reached.

All five cases of sexual assault that were investigated and adjudicated resulted in findings of responsibility, as did one of the two cases of relationship abuse and both cases of exploitation. All students found responsible for sexual assault were separated from the college: one of the students was expelled, and the other four were suspended for two semesters.

One of the students found responsible for exploitation was suspended for Winter Study and given an educational sanction. The other was placed on disciplinary probation and sanctioned with campus restrictions.

The one individual found responsible for relationship abuse was a past employee who is no longer on staff.

 

Category of Conduct Cases Pursued in Discipline Process/
Total Eligible Cases Received
Findings of Responsibility
Sexual Misconduct 5/7 5
Relationship abuse 2/3 1
Stalking 0/1 n/a
Exploitation 2/3 2

 

All students disclosing sexual violence, relationship abuse, stalking, exploitation, or retaliation are able to ask the Deans’ Office for help to arrange accommodations that increase their well-being on campus, whether or not they choose to pursue an investigation and adjudication process.  Accommodations can include academic support, housing changes, no-contact orders and advisory conversations. These options are available to all students who disclose experiences to the college, whether or not they separately choose to exercise their disciplinary or legal options.

Prevention

The college is extremely concerned about the 2015–16 misconduct data. Twenty-one students reporting being harmed is twenty-one too many. Research and our own experience tell us that that this number is likely only a fraction of the real number of incidents that took place. Many people still choose to remain silent, or seek outside help without informing the College. Everyone has the right to respond to their experience in their own way.  The numbers we do know about, however, demonstrate why support and accountability processes alone are not enough. Prevention is a critical priority.

Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention, oversees such work at Williams, and has spent the last year coordinating and significantly expanding our prevention programming. Collectively, this programming spans all four class years at Williams, including introductory training on consent, healthy relationships and boundaries for all incoming students during First Days and Winter Study, as well as specialized bystander training for EphVentures leaders, HCs and Neighborhood Leadership teams, JAs, seniors living off campus and athletic captains. Meg has revised both the content and timing of such efforts, targeting transitional moments, when students are taking on new roles and responsibilities. Offering trainings and workshops at these strategic junctures helps Williams build on students’ intrinsic interest in learning (and teaching) new skills.

Our efforts to improve prevention work are based on national best practices and the experiences of our own Williams students. We are continuing to use data from the 2015 EphCASA survey to ensure that our policies and practices respond to student concerns and experiences. We plan to re-administer the survey in January 2018, to get an updated sense of campus climate and assess the impact of our prevention and response efforts over the past three years.

Williams is also partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice SMART Office on two multi-site projects that look at new ways of addressing campus sexual violence. The first, which started last year, focuses on mapping campus “hot spots”—crowded spaces where unwanted sexual touching is frequent or likely. EphCASA data confirmed that unwanted touching was occurring especially often during all-campus parties, concerts and other crowded events. We are now making several types of “environmental interventions” in those spaces, including posting highly visible messages about campus norms of respect and personal boundaries, reconfiguring the space to change the flow and concentration of students, repositioning staff, and changing light and noise levels, among others. Since the changes were implemented we have already noticed a change in attitudes: students seem more likely to perceive unwanted touching as a boundary violation instead of an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of attending a crowded event. Everyone has the right to take part in campus events without being touched by others in unwanted ways, and we are working hard to increase safety and awareness on this front.

Our second grant-funded partnership with the SMART Office will enable us to offer specialized training to the college’s Psychological Counseling Services and student support teams, equipping them to offer therapeutic and psychoeducational sessions for students who are at risk of engaging in sexual misconduct. Campus professionals who receive this training will learn about research-based educational and prevention techniques for working with students who express concern about their own relationship behaviors and patterns, and to provide increased support and accountability for students who are permitted to return to campus after a mandated separation for sexual misconduct.

The work described in this report—along with many other efforts still ongoing or planned—is the result of extensive collaboration among students, staff and faculty from all corners of the college. Alumni have also provided valuable advice and support. Thank you all for your continued commitment. We have much more work ahead, and I am extremely grateful for your partnership.

 

Sincerely,

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

 

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking please visit the Title IX Support and Accommodations page and seek support in the way you feel most fits your needs.