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Announcement of Presidential Working Group

Dear Emerson Community,

Emerson College is deeply committed to fostering a community that is free from power-based interpersonal violence — and to creating an environment that empowers individuals to come forward to report instances that are antithetical to the College’s values. We also are committed to providing a process for addressing these instances that is fair and equitable for all parties.

It is in that spirit that I am writing to announce the formation of a working group, consisting of students, staff, and faculty, to review the programs and procedures related to the College’s handling of student power-based interpersonal incidents among students, which were materially revised and adopted five years ago. These incidents are referred to as “sexual misconduct” according to the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, in particular in Appendix A: Process for Resolving Reports of Sexual Misconduct Against Emerson StudentsHowever, the scope of its work will extend beyond our student Title IX process to include the full breadth and range of complex issues, especially those in need of amelioration, that comprise our student “sexual misconduct ecosystem.”

I will also ask the working group to examine and report on the motivations behind and implications of the series of incidents that occurred during the closing weeks of the spring term, in which the names of students were posted publicly as having violated the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, or otherwise characterized as “abusers” or “assaulters,” in this public posting of alleged behaviors.

The working group will select external consultants with expertise in student sexual misconduct policies to support, advise, and guide its work.

The charge of the working group will be to:

  • Research evolving best practices of handling sexual misconduct at comparably sized colleges and universities, as well as local colleges and universities of various sizes.
  • Review the flow of information related to student sexual misconduct between administrative offices.
  • Identify administrators who have both specific and broad responsibility for ensuring that our sexual misconduct policies and procedures function effectively on behalf of students. Clarify the extent to which they have “need-to-know” facts about reports, investigations, or outcomes. Recommend improvements in communication among such administrators.
  • Review the work of the various College support systems and programs.
  • Review resources made available to those accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Review processes and decision-making related to:

    Sexual misconduct “intake” processes;
    Barriers to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct;
    The efficacy and imposition of protective and interim measures;
    Participation in student organizations, in leadership roles in those organizations, and in commencement exercises of students who fall into various categories, including those who: have been found responsible for Title IX violations; are currently respondents in ongoing Title IX investigations and; are the subject of reports of sexual misconduct where no investigation has been initiated and may not be.

  • Review the Title IX Office, its processes and procedures, taking into consideration the proposed changes to the Title IX guidelines by the Federal Department of Education and the final regulations likely to be promulgated in fall 2019.
  • Review communication processes to assure that the College maintains the confidence of the community in the College’s values, approach and thoroughness in dealing with these important and sensitive issues.

The working group will report its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President no later than the first week of April 2020.

The working group will be comprised of students, faculty and staff:
Amy Ansell, (co-chair), Dean, Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies
Jan Roberts-Breslin (co-chair), Dean, Graduate and Professional Studies

John Craig Freeman, Professor, Visual and Media Arts
Paul Mihailidis, Associate Professor, Journalism
Brenna McCormick, Executive in Residence, Marketing & Communication
Lindsey Beck, Associate Professor, Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies

Leah Cedeno, Media Arts Production ‘22
Raz Moayed, Media Studies ‘20
Kaitlyn Bryson, Public Relations ‘21
Spencer Wright, Media Arts Production ‘20
Jin (Amber) Yang, Film & Media Art, G ‘22

Sharon Duffy, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs
Audra Kenny, Director, Academic Advising
Seth Grue, Associate Director, Student Success

The following will serve as ex officio members of the working group. They may attend the working group meeting, participate in deliberations on an as needed basis, and provide advice and counsel to the working group where appropriate:

Sylvia Spears, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice
Jim Hoppe, Vice President and Dean of Campus Life
Robert Smith, Chief of Emerson Police Department
Christine Hughes, Vice President and General Counsel
Meredith Ainbinder, Deputy General Counsel
Anne Shaughnessy, Associate Vice President, Office of the President

Lee Pelton

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