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A Deep Look

College makes progress on sexual misconduct prevention

Eighteen months ago, Swarthmore made a commitment to do things in a new way and to be a leader in higher education in responding to and preventing sexual misconduct. Since 2013, the Swarthmore community has taken a deep look at itself: It conducted internal and external reviews, created new positions, began new initiatives, and adopted a new sexual harassment and assault policy. (For a complete list of actions the College has taken since spring 2013, see here.)

Much work has been done—and we have a lot of work still to do. In my eight months here, I’ve focused on learning about this campus and meeting as many people as I can. I’ve been inspired by the many students I have met who are absolutely committed to healing this community, supporting one another, and helping this campus they call home. I’ve worked with students, faculty, and staff to create the structures that will take us to the next level. What follows are some of the new initiatives already underway, with more to follow.

Student Title IX Advisory Team. A group of 10 dedicated Swarthmore students meet with me weekly to give guidance, offer suggestions, and work in one of four subteams—website development, athletics, events, and policy.   

Expanded Prevention Education. The new Title IX Education Team is busy planning regular events on gender equity, healthy relationships, consent, and sexual violence prevention. Events have included a visit in the fall by Mike Domitrz, an award-winning author and speaker, who presented an engaging program about consent. In February, our team hosted a series of events on healthy relationships including a panel about men, masculinity, and relationships. The team has several events planned for spring, including programs on bystander intervention, survivor support, sexuality, and faith, among others. All of these events help to increase campuswide understanding of issues related to sexual violence with the goal of educating about consent, healthy relationships, bystander intervention, and survivor support.  

*New* New Student Orientation. The Dean’s Office created a new orientation program, including intentional sexual violence and relationship abuse prevention programs. Every new student was required to take

an online course from Campus Clarity called Think About It and attend a presentation by Nina Harris, Swarthmore’s violence prevention educator and advocate. 

 • Title IX House & Fellow. Abigail Henderson ’15, the newly hired Title IX fellow, joined the office of the Title IX coordinator in January. The office is in a newly renovated house on Fieldhouse Lane and includes office space and a comfortable meeting room.  

Expanded support for survivors. The aforementioned Nina Harris continues to provide advocacy services to students—cultivating new resources for support and working across campus to improve accessibility to support. In addition, she routinely sponsors survivor dinners and has created regular drop-in hours at the Women’s Resource Center.  

Continued improvements to adjudication and reporting. This winter, a small team of staff reviewed the new sexual harassment and assault policy, an annual exercise that ensures that our policies are current with changing federal requirements and match the values and needs of our campus. 

Sexual Misconduct Task Force. The task force completed its work, distributed its report on campus, and presented it to multiple groups. The report will continue to inform policy, procedures, and programming improvements.  

Sexual misconduct is a community issue, and it will take a community to prevent it. I focus on this issue in four ways: through campus policies that reflect federal guidelines and campus values; a response/adjudication process that is clear and supportive; ongoing sexual violence prevention and healthy relationships education; and creating a survivor-supportive community. We have made progress in all four areas, and I look forward to working with the Swarthmore community to continue this vital work.