To members of the Vassar community:
We write as members of the Vassar College Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), a group of community members striving to support students who are victims of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking and/or sexual harassment. Towards this end, we work closely with students who are victims of sexual abuse. We also work collaboratively with many others at the College to help provide the structure and resources necessary to best support our students. We do this work almost entirely as volunteers, under the leadership of the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Coordinator and the Director of Health Education.
As we all know, this is a time of great pain, distrust and fear on campus, especially among students who have been victims of sexual assault. We are deeply concerned about the particulars of the case that has recently been reported as well as for all victims of sexual abuse who are here on campus.
We also want to take this opportunity to move forward, to make our campus a safer home for our students and to provide them with the best and most appropriate resources and support. As a beginning, we therefore have just made the following specific recommendations for change to members of the Board of Trustees and the Vassar administration:
- All Title IX panel members should have specific and ongoing training regarding issues related to sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking and/or sexual harassment. Trainings should be provided by experts in the field.
- All Title IX panel members and first responders to survivors should have training on rape trauma response. This training can be provided at no cost to the College by a specially trained professional from Family Services here in Poughkeepsie.
- The Director of Health Education should become a regular member of the Dean of the College’s Cabinet. Having the Director of Health Ed present during Cabinet meetings brings to the table the voice of a professional trained explicitly in responding to incidences of sexual assault, as well as issues of alcohol and drug abuse.
- The positions of the Director of Health Education and the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) Coordinator should be changed from 11-month to 12-month contracts in recognition that people in these positions do considerable work already during the ‘month off’ and could accomplish much needed additional programmatic work during that extra month.
- One additional SAVP coordinator should be hired to work full-time on preventative issues.
- Efforts should be taken to make Vassar’s consent policy clearer, including, for example, better definitions.
- All policies and procedures should be evaluated in light of experiences on campus over the past few years to ensure we are doing the very best we can to support our students. Additionally, policies and procedures should be evaluated to ensure they are consistent with the new NY State standards which were announced this week for all public colleges and for which the Governor is seeking support to have apply to all private colleges in the state.
We look forward to working with all concerned members of the community, to take seriously our mandate to provide the very best possible support for our students who are victims of sexual assault and to provide a climate where it is understood that sexual assault is not tolerated.
Carlos Alamo, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Janet Gray, Professor of Psychology
William Hoynes, Professor of Sociology
Alistair Hall, Sustainability Coordinator
Judy Jarvis, Director for the Campus Life LGBTQ Center & Women’s Center
Lisa Kooperman, Assistant Dean of Fellowships and PreHealth Advising
Gretchen Lieb, Librarian
Carol Lynn Marshall, Librarian
Lydia Murdoch, Associate Professor of History
Barbara Olsen, Associate Professor of Greek and Roman Studies
Renee Pabst, Director of Health Education
Dayle Rebelein, Administrative Assistant, Education
Charlotte Strauss Swanson, SAVP Coordinator