In Support of The Collective for Change on The Hill

In the face of institutional racism and white supremacy, culminating in a recent wave of abhorrent violent threats to students of color, The Collective for Change on The Hill is doing tremendous work to hold the St. Olaf community and administration accountable. Every student has the right to be safe and respected. While St. Olaf supposedly “strives to be an inclusive community, respecting those of differing backgrounds and beliefs,” it often fails to reach this goal. It is on all of us who are a part of this institution to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

To the students calling for change, thank you for your courage, determination, and thoughtful list of demands. We stand with you and we encourage other alumni and members of the St. Olaf community to do the same. This ends now.

You can learn more about their concerns, mission and demands here.

Alumni and parents can sign a petition of solidarity here.

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Response to Working Group’s Report

An executive summary of the Working Group’s recommendations can be found here, while the comprehensive final report can be found here.

First and foremost, we want to commend the working group for navigating this personal yet heavily political process with compassion, transparency, and urgency that indicates a willingness to initiate change and a true desire to make St. Olaf College a safer place. As evidenced by the thoughtful 116-page report, the working group has demonstrated a genuine commitment to reforming sexual assault policies at St. Olaf. Although we have reservations about the administration which is charged with accepting these suggestions, we want to reiterate that we are incredibly impressed with the commitment and care to the cause that these particular individuals have displayed.

The working group offered many recommendations that form a basis for a far stronger sexual assault policy at St. Olaf, and which met a good deal of our original demands. We applaud the recommendation to hire a Title IX Case Manager, a full-time paid non-student SARN Coordinator and a Gender and Sexuality Coordinator. These hires would fulfill long-time needs of St. Olaf as an institution, and St. Olaf’s acceptance of this recommendation would demonstrate a willingness to financially back a more inclusive, more supportive administration.

Our hope is that these positions would be filled promptly and that the people hired become fixtures in the St. Olaf community. We are aware that certain campus positions, like the International Student Life Coordinator, had been left unstaffed for months at a time, as referenced in this petition. The position has since been filled and renamed. These positions will actualize their incredibly helpful potential only if they are kept staffed.

We hope that the president accepts the working group’s suggestions to create and fill these positions to meet student needs, and that this acceptance will demonstrate a willingness to fill positions in the future. Other commendable recommendations include the consent and bystander training that would be given to students, the publishing of sexual violence data, and the implementation of an annual, publicly available climate survey.

These thoughtful recommendations grant President David Anderson an excellent opportunity to make our college’s sexual assault policy stronger. We encourage students and alumni to submit input on the policy recommendations, both positive and negative, to the president here.

Having said that, we disagreed with a few prominent recommendations of the working group:

Neglect to Recommend Strict Affirmative Verbal Consent

The working group’s report also determines that a policy of strict affirmative verbal consent “would be problematic and lead to a host of unintended consequences.” The report then moves to address calls for policy change by recommending an emphasis on verbal consent in education and training, as well as providing examples of when consent is given/not given in both verbal and non-verbal form within St. Olaf’s Title IX policy. It is difficult to assess at this time the ramifications of these alterations when the working group has not proposed specific examples.

We find the modest adjustments around affirmative verbal consent lacking, given that we have seen cases in which St. Olaf’s adjudicators determine that firm verbal declarations of non-consent can be overruled by ambiguously defined “overt actions.” The lack of a policy recommendation for affirmative verbal consent leaves open the door for incredibly lenient definitions of what non-verbal consent might look like. It is very important to note that this leniency in the past has made the difference between a rapist being found responsible and a rapist being able to walk away from an investigation without consequence because they were able to justify “she/he seemed to enjoy it” as consent to adjudicators.

These concerns might be mitigated by the working group’s recommendation that a (usually external) professional investigator make the determination around a case. Perhaps these investigators, who typically possess a legal background, would discern well what can qualify as “overt” and mutually understood non-verbal consent.

Jo Beld’s Conflict of Interest

The working group’s report determines that Jo Beld’s position as Vice President of Mission does not conflict with her duties as Title IX Coordinator. The report believes that the VP of Mission’s function in supporting the “mission, vision and institutional effectiveness” of St. Olaf harmonizes with the Title IX Coordinator role. The report cites the college’s Strategic Plan, which includes the prevention of sexual misconduct as evidence of synergy between the two roles.

While some synergy may exist between the two roles and their duties of sexual assault prevention, a clear conflict of interest arises when looking at the way that each role might address sexual assault and amend sexual assault policies.

The Office for Civil Rights recommends that the Title IX Coordinator be given an “appropriate level of authority to oversee the [academic institution]’s compliance with Title IX.” Because the Vice President for Mission has the responsibility to “support the work of the President” the authority required to handle sexual assault is implicated. The job description provided for the Vice President of Mission heavily implies that the position’s primary duties involve supporting the President. As such, these duties are incompatible with the independence and authority required to uphold the standards of Title IX law at St. Olaf.

Irrespective of this apparent conflict of interest, the working group’s support of this dual role affirms the college’s decision to promote a Title IX coordinator from an administrative role rather than hiring a sexual assault professional. President Anderson’s reluctance to hire a person with career-long experience with handling sexual assault for the position fails to acknowledge the important distinction between sexual assault and other issues that college administrators might encounter. Rape is a violent, trauma-inducing crime. Making important decisions about preventing and addressing this crime requires a career-long professional.

The President will have an opportunity to address this oversight by approving the working group’s recommendation of a Title IX Case Manager, and by hiring a sexual assault professional for the position. We strongly encourage any Ole alumni or current students to write in encouraging the President to hire an external sexual assault professional for the Case Manager position.

Furthermore, we found several important issues regarding sexual assault at Olaf which need to be addressed beyond what the working group suggested:

Clarifying Definitions

It is difficult to assess the comprehensiveness and clarity of the new or modified definitions (coercion, stalking, incapacitation) when the working group has not offered us these new definitions. We fear that by not proposing definitions and merely suggesting amendations, it will be left up to the college administrators to determine these new definitions- something that has been problematic in the past. Considering that the working group contained sexual assault professionals and 4 lawyers, it is disappointing to not see any proposed definitions.

Fails to Address Cooperation with Law Enforcement

The report makes very little mention of the Northfield Police Department. Federal law requires the College to inform a Title IX complainant of their options for involving campus authorities and law enforcement or not. The report also points to the Office of Civil Rights recommendation that a College enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement and the local prosecutor’s office to communicate how they can work together on an Title IX complaint that also leads to charges being filed. Concurrent investigations can be a challenge that the report fails to address. St. Olaf, like many other colleges and universities, is hounded by charges that it covered up sexual assaults and discouraged victims from going to the Northfield Police Department. Not addressing the topic of cooperative investigations is a serious oversight by the Working Group.

The Counseling Center is Still Understaffed

One of the many changes we recommended when we met with both the working group and St. Olaf administrators was to assume an active, rather than passive, approach to providing and encouraging students to get the trauma counseling that they may need. The working group attempted to acknowledge this concern by suggesting that the Title IX Case Manager could act as an advocate for victims by coordinating counseling appointments and potentially even walking students to the Boe House (Counseling Center). Additionally, their report recommended 40 hour advocacy training for all confidential counseling resources. These suggestions represent a commitment to more compassionate administration and counseling for survivors of sexual assault, and should be lauded.

However, the Working Group acknowledges that counselors at Boe House are working at capacity, which has been a concern at St. Olaf for years. The working group claims that “crisis appointments are generally available on a daily basis, but that availability is not well known to many students.” What they neglect to mention is that crisis appointments have traditionally only been scheduled for students who admit to having thoughts of self harm to the Boe House prior to the appointment. This represents an incredibly high bar for a student to qualify for a “crisis” appointment. Considering the working group’s eagerness to advocate for the creation of new administrative positions, their failure to suggest that the college properly staff the Boe House comes off as a disappointing oversight.

It is important to note that we have not assessed every suggestion from the working group- either positive or negative- in this post. Rather, we have highlighted the suggestions we found to be the most impactful. We would like to reiterate that the working group did an incredibly thoughtful and admirable job with these recommendations. While we do not agree with each point, they approached their work with a compassion and tact that was desperately needed. We hope that President Anderson is swift to accept and implement these recommendations and will continue to heed outside counsel and listen to student voices in the future.

Despite our admiration for these recommendations, we would like the emphasize that the true judge of the success of any policy changes will be future St. Olaf students.
As always, we and other students and alumni will be carefully watching the college over the course of the following months. If you would like to contact us, you can at studentsfortitleix@gmail.com.

 

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Graduation

Earlier today, every single member of the gray shirt team at St. Olaf College graduated.

Over the past several months our efforts to raise awareness about the inadequacies of our college’s sexual assault policy received attention from Minnesota-wide news outlets like the Star Tribune and MPR and nationally syndicated outlets like Mic.com, Newsweek and Teen Vogue.

From the first day, before any media attention, alumni took notice, and thousands of them started a conversation over social media and in person about how they could help. Many alumni have supported our movement by writing to the administration, spreading the word through social media, notifying the press and withholding donations from the college until adequate policy reform takes place.

Thanks to the efforts of these alumni as well as many current students, St. Olaf’s administration created a working group to recommend changes to the sexual assault policy. We look forward to seeing the results of the working group’s efforts. We hope that adequate steps will be made to sharpen the college’s policies and to ensure that administrators are held accountable when they fail in their legal obligation to victims of sexual assault.

We also look forward to seeing the results of the impending Office for Civil Rights investigation, which will determine whether St. Olaf is ‘creating a sexually hostile environment.’ If the OCR finds this to be the case, they will look to rectify college policies and procedures themselves.

Today, the grey shirt team became a part of the alumni community. After two months of wearing shirts that say “ASK ME HOW MY COLLEGE IS PROTECTING RAPISTS,” we cut up our shirts and fashioned them into honor cords to create a visual reminder at graduation of the long way that St. Olaf’s administration still has to go to address the issue of sexual assault. Many amazing alumni, parents and other students wore gray ribbons to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and with efforts to change college policies.

We wish to emphasize that our activism has not disappeared because we are leaving campus, but it has changed form. The fight for an accountable administration and a safe campus is far from over, and we will be watching St. Olaf’s attempts to address these issues closely in the coming months.

A lot of the success of our advocacy owes itself to activist groups and movements on campus such as the Cultural Union for Black Expression, Feminists for Change, Gay Lesbian or Whatever, Students for Reproductive Rights, Black Lives Matter and many others who have paved the way for change at our college. These groups have long been advocating to make St. Olaf a better, safer, more inclusive place. Ole activists have contributed to a student body that is more aware of social issues, and more ready to look out for their fellow students than ever before. This campus climate was essential in raising awareness and in getting our administration to act.

We are proud to leave the future of St. Olaf in the hands of an increasingly compassionate student body. Diversity, inclusivity and safety are ideals towards which our college must constantly strive. We encourage alumni, faculty and members of the St. Olaf community to listen to the voices of student activists in helping better the college.

As our team transitions from “student” to “alumni”, the posts on this blog will be much less frequent. However, we will offer our thoughts on the working groups suggestions after they are published on July 15th. Furthermore, we will be in contact with current members of the student body to ensure these suggestions are implemented and the administration is being held accountable in future years.

There will be opportunities over the summer for alumni to join the discussion about sexual assault policies and procedures at class reunions, and others will arise during the school year. If you wish to be involved, you can join the group, “Alumni for a Safer St. Olaf College” (link to the facebook page) or send us an email at studentsfortitleix@gmail.com.

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Meeting With President David Anderson

Today several members of our group finally met with President David Anderson. The meeting was facilitated by the working group head, Tim Maudlin, and focused largely on trying to find a “common ground” between ourselves and the president.

We can report that after the meeting we have an understanding of why the President has taken the actions that he has in the past month. While we still don’t necessarily agree with his actions, it is helpful to hear his perspective.

One thing that Anderson emphasized repeatedly in the meeting is that sexual assault is always a difficult issue to approach from an administrative angle. We acknowledge that the implementation of sexual assault policies is difficult from an administrative perspective.

However, we tried to emphasize in our meeting that sexual assault is always more painful for survivors than it ever will be for administrators and policy makers.   

We want to believe that President David Anderson has walked away from this meeting with a greater understanding of the urgency and empathy that is warranted for sexual violence. Additionally, we hope that the President recognizes the harm that St. Olaf’s current sexual assault policies have incurred on survivors as well as the poor administration of such policies.

We will continue to open ourselves to hearing different points of view in the coming weeks.

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Meeting With the Working Group

UPDATE: We are pleased to announce that the working group has decided to make their demands public at the same time they are handed to President David Anderson.

Last evening, we were invited to speak with the working group and present our list of demands.

We are pleased to announce that it was a productive meeting. The working group members were engaging, thoughtful and exhibited the empathy and urgency that we have been waiting to see from our school’s administration for weeks. We commend the working group for acknowledging the harm that has been incurred on sexual assault victims as a result of the policies and administrators currently in place, and affirming the many opportunities that the college has for improvement in the future.

Although we are optimistic that the working group will present informed and valuable suggestions to the administration in mid-July, it has come to our attention that the working group may not be publishing their suggestions prior to presenting them to President David Anderson.

Throughout the past month we have implored the administration to be more transparent and accountable with their actions. We think that it is absolutely necessary that the list of suggestions that the working group hands to the administration be made public. Publicizing those suggestions is the only way to have a truly transparent process. Transparency will guarantee a higher degree of accountability in carrying out the suggestions on the part of administrators.

The working group is currently in the listening and education phase of their training. Their task over the next couple days is to listen to the testimonies of sexual assault survivors and carefully consider the suggestions they receive from alumni, students, parents, and faculty. As such, we encourage everyone to ask for the recommendations to be made public.

Additionally, please do submit to the working group your own suggestions, concerns and experiences regarding our school’s sexual misconduct policy. We want to affirm that these people really do care about your input, and showing them as many perspectives as possible will result in a better set of recommendations this summer. If you are interested in contacting the working group, you can find that form here: http://wp.stolaf.edu/title-ix/submit-input-subscribe-to-updates/.

We look forward to continued communication with the working group.

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Photo Credit: Donny Sison

Disrespectful Correspondence from President David Anderson

Correspondence with President David Anderson has been sparse and unpleasant. My father in particular has been in contact with him for months, looking for answers about how the college so severely mishandled my sexual assault case.

Originally, my father contacted President David Anderson asking for help and to alert him of the policy violations that were being committed by his administrators. Beyond that, many of my father’s communications with Anderson have focused on questions of policy: Why does St. Olaf use only a single administrator to adjudicate rape cases? How are these administrators trained?

I think a large portion of the St. Olaf community is still waiting to hear the answers to those two questions.

The majority of my father’s correspondence politely tried to convey to Anderson the extent of administrative misconduct throughout my case. For example, no less that three administrators knew that my assailant had hired private investigators to harass me, which is an explicit violation of the sexual misconduct policy, but none of them took actions to prosecute my assailant for this violation. Details of that failure and many more can be found in my OCR complaint, linked here:

OCR Complaint (content warning: rape, sexual assault, intoxication)

We have heard from various sources that David Anderson still believes that no harm has occurred in the administrative mishandling of my case and the cases of others. To maintain this defensive stance in spite of the stories of numerous survivors, as well as a federal investigation by the Office for Civil Rights, shows extremely poor judgement.  

It also shows a severe lack of compassion. It falls exactly in line with his refusal to openly acknowledge the group of students which has brought the issue of sexual assault policy to light. It explains his administration’s baffling response to the complaints that have been raised, which has Title IX Coordinator Jo Beld saying to the Minnesota Star Tribune that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the school’s system for addressing sexual assault “isn’t broken.”

This defensiveness and lack of compassion came to the forefront of a recent email exchange with my father:

Note: the purpose of our publishing this email exchange isn’t to criticize Carl Lehmann, although we do think he has a conflict of interest in representing both the college and an entity designed to impartially examine college policies. Regardless of whether or not you agree with my father, this exchange is intended to show how David Anderson dismisses a well thought out, well worded complaint regarding a potential conflict of interest- and how he addresses the parents of sexual assault survivors. Clarifications and redactions are bracketed/italicized.

On Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 12:12 PM, Dean Martinson wrote:

Dear President Anderson and Chair – Kris Johnson (via Tim Maudlin):

There is a fundamental problem with how St. Olaf has been investigating Title IX cases. When I started asking some very basic questions in the beginning of the year, the college cut-off communications with me, and directed me to Carl Lehmann, the college attorney. After months of on and off communications, I have concluded that there are some glaring “conflict of interest” issues with Carl Lehman’s Firm and trainEd (Carl’s company). Carl Lehmann and Gray, Plant, and Mooty, (his law firm) defend and advise the college with issues pertaining to Title IX. Carl Lehmann and trainEd (his company) investigate allegations by students in regard to Title IX issues. Quite often these Title IX investigations will ultimately include, assessing if the college failed in some way to inform, protect, or respond to the victim. I believe this is a clear conflict of interest for Carl Lehmann and his role in all of this. I believe he needs to decide to defend and advise the college, or to investigate and hold accountable the college. He cannot effectively do both.

To give you an example of how this comes out in the wash: Madeline found out her assailant was harassing, retaliating, and stalking her, after her original report. Under Title IX, the college has a duty to take strong responsive action if harassment occurs and to take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred. The college claims they fulfilled this obligation by informing the assailant that: (paraphrasing) “We can’t tell you what to do or not do, but your actions might be considered retaliation.” After they failed to investigate it, Madeline documented her request for the college to investigate his actions. The college responded ([likely]through the guidance of Carl Lehmann) with opening a disciplinary case and recommending a informal resolution (normally reserved for [conflicts such as] roommate disputes). When objections were raised, the college finally referred the case to an independent attorney, [name redacted] out in Portland Oregon. He confirmed that the college was indeed, not taking this seriously enough and advised the college to classify the allegation as a Title IX complaint (which results in more serious sanctions and greater protections for Madeline). [Sentence redacted to protect identity] My point through all of this; because of this conflict of interest with Carl Lehmann, the college consistently provides inadequate responses, resulting in poor (if not illegal) implementation of Title IX. Further, this conflict of interests results in the following: The time it takes to resolve these cases is months, instead of weeks. This is due to the lack of response by the College and the consistent procedural mistakes of wrongly classifying these cases (under-reporting Title IX cases). In Madeline’s case, this resulted in the perpetrator, being able to continue his harassment, for months after the original report!

I attempted to contact Kris Johnson, a Board of Regents member, to voice my concern. She would not speak to me and had Carl Lehmann tell me; that board members would not speak to me. This was a baffling response to concerns regarding Carl Lehmann and the conflict of interest which exists. With this never-ending referral back to the person you have issues with, it appears a person has no remedy or avenue to voice their concerns. It employs the same logic which St. Olaf has used in the past; put the victim and the accused perpetrator in the same room to work out their differences; with a male faculty member present. Only this time, there isn’t even a faculty member present; just the person who you have the issue with.

Thank You for considering this.

Dean Martinson ’86

And the email he received in response from President David Anderson, two days later:

Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:40:28 -0500

Subject: Re: An acceptable method to resolve issues with Mr. Lehmann

Dear Mr. Martinson,

Like many of your other communications with the College, this one is rife with misstatements and falsehoods. I will not address all of them in this reply because that will simply result in more of the same from you.

Rather, I will simply affirm that Carl Lehmann will continue in his role as valued general counsel to the College. This includes advising us in the way we address sexual misconduct and sexual assault complaints.

He will also serve on the Title IX Working Group, not as general counsel to the College but as a volunteer subject matter expert.

Sincerely,

David Anderson

Here President David Anderson displays absolutely no respect for the struggles that my father and myself have gone through to even have our complaints taken seriously by the college’s administration. I want to reiterate that my father has always been polite and civil to President David Anderson while desperately searching for a fair resolution. To say that my father’s legitimate concern regarding the working group is “rife with misstatements and falsehoods” is appalling, and to say that engaging a concerned parent will only “result in more of the same from you” is disturbing. I am shocked that this is coming from the president of my college.

He displays no compassion for a father whose child was raped, a man who has spent months being ignored by St. Olaf’s administration, whose daughter has had to be on the front page of the Star Tribune before her college’s own Deans would start listening to her.

He refuses to even address my father’s criticism, instead opting for a combative, defensive position.

After the past month, David Anderson’s response isn’t surprising. It is exactly what we have come to expect from this administration.

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Meeting with State Representatives

A little over a week ago we posted a letter which Minnesota State Representatives Erin Murphy (DFL, St. Paul/District 64A) and David Bly (DFL, Northfield/District 20B) sent to St. Olaf President David Anderson urging him to meet with us regarding the administration’s handling of sexual assault cases. 

We regret to announce that David Anderson refused that meeting.

However, the Representatives still sought to hear the voices of nine concerned students, and to provide a bridge of communication between ourselves and St. Olaf administrators. They allowed us to vocalize our concerns not only about the administration’s inept response to sexual misconduct (detailed partly in this complaint to the Office for Civil Rights [content warning: rape, sexual assault, intoxication]), but also about the administration’s unprofessional response (or lack thereof) to student activism.

We are truly proud to live in a state where Representatives like David Bly and Erin Murphy are willing to listen to the voices of student activists.

Moving forward, the representatives and ourselves will continue to attempt to open a dialogue with administrators.

 

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The Office for Civil Rights Will Be Investigating St. Olaf College

Note: David Anderson requested that the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights conduct an “independent review” of St. Olaf College policies at some point around April 2, 2016. Anderson claims that their request was denied on April 6. On April 8 a team of lawyers from Gender Justice filed this official complaint against St. Olaf (which they worked for weeks to compile) on my behalf to the OCR. Yesterday my lawyer informed me that the OCR had received my complaint and directed it to one of their teams to assign an investigator and an attorney in relation to my complaint. Despite the fact that they denied David Anderson’s request for an “independent review,” the Office for Civil Rights will be investigating St. Olaf College’s ability to adhere to Title IX law.

Since President David Anderson’s latest email we have heard nothing from Olaf administrators. No acknowledgement of what we have done on campus, no consideration of our demands, nothing.

In the meantime I have finalized and filed my complaint to the Office for Civil Rights in conjunction with lawyers at Gender Justice. You can read that complaint (barring redactions protecting the privacy of various individuals) by clicking this link:

Official OCR Complaint (content warning: rape, sexual assault, intoxication)

David Anderson claimed in a recent email: “St. Olaf College does not tolerate sexual misconduct.” This is false. The administrators of St. Olaf College do tolerate sexual misconduct. As delineated in this complaint, St. Olaf administrators tolerated explicit actions of sexual misconduct again and again. As such, myself and other survivors have no confidence in the ability of this administration to handle cases of sexual misconduct.

When college administrators allow my perpetrator to engage inequitable legal counsel far beyond the limits mandated by their own policy, they are tolerating sexual misconduct.

When college administrators allow my perpetrator to hire private investigators to harass me, when private investigators are explicitly forbidden by the school’s stalking policy, they are tolerating sexual misconduct.

When college administrators repeatedly fail to adhere to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard which is mandated by Title IX law, they are tolerating sexual misconduct.

I would rather not have had to file this complaint.

I wish that St. Olaf administrators had listened when I notified them over and over of the private investigators hired by my rapist. I wish they had listened when I detailed the many violations of my Title IX rights in my appeal to the college. I wish they had listened while myself and other students wearing grey shirts listed their failings and steps that could be taken to remedy them. I wish they had listened when Minnesota State Representatives Erin Murphy and David Bly tried to procure a meeting on the behalf of myself and fellow student protesters.

But they didn’t listen. So here we are.

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Photo Credit: Nicole Kroschel

A Message from Minnesota State Representatives

We have a bit of good news. Because St. Olaf administration has been unwilling to meet with us beyond a rushed, hour-long meeting over a week ago, and because that same administration has refused to allow us representation on their “working group,” Minnesota State Representatives Erin Murphy and David Bly have sent a letter to President David Anderson on our behalf.

We appreciate that Representatives Murphy and Bly hear our concerns and advocate on our behalf, but we wish such advocacy was not necessary for us to be heard by our college’s administration.

We hope in the future that the college is receptive to student voices, long before media and state legislators have to get involved.

The letter to David Anderson is linked below:

St Olaf Meeting Request

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About the “Working Group”

President David Anderson sent this email to the St. Olaf Community today:

Dear Oles,

Last week I wrote to you about the important issue of sexual assault and the rigorous debate in the St. Olaf community about how we can best address incidents that threaten the safety and well-being of our students.

I announced the formation of a Working Group to critically review our policies and procedures, seek input from the community, and make recommendations for policy changes to be implemented by the start of the 2016-17 school year. This email announces the membership of that group. Their work begins immediately. The first steps include defining a process and timeline and obtaining student feedback before students depart campus at the end of the term so that the committee has ample opportunity to receive their suggestions and concerns.

This group is undertaking a critical task that will require both significant study and a sense of urgency. It is empowered to proceed independently and to retain expert advice and counsel at its own discretion.

The Working Group is charged with:

Conducting a comprehensive review of the college’s Title IX policies and procedures with transparency, rigor and a strong commitment to St. Olaf’s values;

  • Ensuring compliance with the latest federal and state regulations and guidelines;
  • Seeking input and advice from students who have participated firsthand in St. Olaf’s Title IX processes and from other members of the St. Olaf family;
  • Ensuring that the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and opinions of our community are reflected in our Title IX policies;
  • Considering the policies and practices of other colleges and universities with particularly robust policies, and the thoughts of other experts;
  • Providing informed and specific recommendations on how the college can improve its Title IX policies to the President by July 15, 2016

Members of St. Olaf’s Title IX Working Group include:

  • Tim Maudlin ’73, Chair; member of the St. Olaf Board of Regents and Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee
  • Emma Lind ’17, SGA President-elect and past Co-chair, the St. Olaf It’s On Us campaign, a White House initiative to change the way people think about sexual assault
  • Kaelie Lund ’16, Co-chair, St. Olaf Sexual Assault Resource Network (SARN)
  • Ryan Bowles, Athletic Director
  • Matt Marohl, Campus Pastor
  • Sue Smalling, Assistant Professor of Social Work
  • Erica Staab-Absher, CMT, BSW, Executive Director, HOPE Center
  • Carl Lehmann ’91, higher education and Title IX attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, and co-founder of trainED
  • Jill Fedje ’85, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney
  • Karla Benson-Rutten, Title IX Coordinator, Macalester College

Regent Tim Maudlin ’73 will chair the group. Tim serves on the St. Olaf Board of Regents and chairs the College’s Audit Committee which is responsible for oversight of the College’s process for monitoring compliance with laws, regulations, and codes of conduct. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Luther Seminary. He completed 12 years of service on the Augsburg Fortress Board of Trustees this past year. He currently serves on seven corporate boards, always as an independent director and as Audit Committee chair. I am confident that under Tim’s leadership, the Working Group will complete its charge and recommend productive changes.

We have created a dedicated page on St. Olaf’s website where the community can:

I encourage you to visit the site and subscribe to ongoing updates. The Working Group will deliver its recommendations to me by July 15, 2016, and I will share them with the community.

We are grateful for the Working Group’s willingness to serve the St. Olaf community on a very important issue. We look forward to carefully considering all of its recommendations and commit to implementing any policy changes before the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Care, compassion, and a commitment to continuous learning and growth define the St. Olaf community. We are committed to getting this right and will do so with your help, prayers and support.

PDA

The formation of a working group seems like a wise (if belated) first step towards permanent change to the St. Olaf sexual assault policy. Many of the choices for this working group seem like intelligent, well qualified individuals. The addition of a fixed deadline for policy recommendations (July 15, 2016) is also commendable.

With that said, the selection of this working group seems to foster several glaring omissions:

First, there is only a single member of St. Olaf’s faculty included. It seems as though David Anderson is neglecting some of his best resources by omitting several incredibly qualified individuals who asked specifically to be involved in the working group. We will address this issue further in a post in the next few days.

While two very qualified students were selected for the group, as far as we know neither of them have been through St. Olaf’s sexual assault process. This omission is nothing short of absurd: how can we expect the working group to sufficiently improve the experiences of survivors who have gone through Olaf’s process without including these voices? Also, only a single student who was included on the working group will be able to see the changes into effect.

We hope that some of the working group are LGBTQ identified, but we do not know that any are. If there are no members of the LGBTQ community on this working group, it does not represent “diverse backgrounds,” especially considering the topic at hand. 

Finally, zero members of the grey shirt team have been included in the group, despite the fact that several of us asked. Barring members of our team from the process of altering the sexual assault policy is disrespectful, considering that without our efforts, there would be no working group.

Our hope is that our exclusion from the working group does not mean that we have been cut out of the conversation. Since our meeting with administration over a week ago, we have received minimal correspondence from the Title IX team or David Anderson regarding our demands, the working group, etc.

That lack of transparency is frustratingly unprofessional, as is the lack of transparency in the selection process for the working group.

With that failure to be transparent in mind, we have several questions regarding the implementation of the working group. Some of them are:

  • What weight will be given to the recommendations put forth by the working group? Notably, our team has already met with administrators and presented them with suggestions. Will the same administrators who have already attempted to ignore the suggestions put forth by the grey shirt team have the final say?
  • When will the working group first meet?
  • How often will the working group meet?
  • Will the working group be able to discuss the failings of the policy in relation to specific cases? It is impossible to truly address the inefficacies of a policy without addressing its shortcomings in real world situations.
  • How will we ensure that administrators follow an improved policy? In Madeline’s case, as in several others, various administrators failed to adhere to their own regulations.

Above all, we wish to reiterate that no changes have been made to the sexual assault policy, and little has been done to even acknowledge the harm that the current policy has incurred on survivors of sexual assault.

Please reach out to us if you have questions or concerns regarding our stances or our actions.

picholland