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.

IMG_1332

Advertisements

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.

 

IMG_1701

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.

AskMe 061 copy

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

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 6.34.46 PM

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

A Message from Professor Emerita Olivia Frey

Associate Professor Emerita Olivia Frey recently contacted us to provide a historical outlook on St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies.

We are incredibly disheartened to learn that some of our demands have been pressed for by concerned Oles for OVER A DECADE.

Professor Frey asked a past administration to incorporate “professionals, trained in dealing with rape and sexual assault” and to mandate harsher sanctions for rapists. We are asking for the same things many years later. There has been painfully little progress.

We are disappointed to announce that we are still waiting to hear back from administration after last Thursday’s email promising to assemble a “working group” over the summer. We are still ready to start reforming our sexual assault policy right now. 

Here is Professor Frey’s email:

Dear protestors:

I am an Assoc. Professor Emerita, having retired from St. Olaf in 2001 after teaching there for 20 years.
Let me first say how I admire your courage. You have left yourself open to harassment and ridicule for coming forward. (You are in good company!)
Fifteen or so years ago, I chaired a committee called Committee on the Status of Women. The committee was made up of faculty, staff and students.
One of the issues that we tackled, that we fought hard to change, was the St. Olaf policy on sexual assault.
Back then, when someone charged that a fellow student had raped/assaulted her, the common practice was to bring the two into a room together (!). A dean of some kind would attend, often one of the deans for residential life (often a man), and the three would “discuss” the charge. This meeting constituted the college’s investigation of the charge.
I don’t need to list for you the problems with this. In probably every case, the attacker was cleared, and the survivor admitted that alcohol had played a role, implying that she was partly if not 50% responsible for what had happened.
Well, really, we raised hell, but not in quite the creative way you have.
For two years we pounded away at this. Finally, some changes were made. The most radical on the committee wanted the college to inform the police immediately. Of course, this was rejected. We also wanted attackers to be expelled. Absolutely not. And if the attackers were never found guilty, it was a moot point anyway.
What we were able to accomplish, at least, a very small victory, was that the two would NOT be placed in a room together when they were interviewed. The person attacked would have an advocate (female) from beginning to the end of the process.
We also tried to get the college to do the following. When the attacker was held responsible (!), he would at least need to move to another dorm. In many cases, attackers lived in the same dorm, sometimes on the same floor. We asked that attackers be given the choice–Have counseling, or be expelled from school. We asked that professionals, trained in dealing with rape and sexual assault, be involved in these instances and provide training for deans or whatever administrator or staff were enlisted to help.
Nope. None of it.
The then president of the college, Mark Edwards, called me to his office at some point. He was very casual and chatty at first. Then mentioned I had been chair of the CSW for some years, and it was probably time for a change. (People served on the committee at the behest of the president). I said, no, there’s still some things to get done, particularly with the sexual assault policy, and I’d like one more term.
He said No, you’re done. You’re off the committee.
When Jo Beld says that the college is continually refining its sexual conduct process, that’s bullshit. Nothing seems to have changed in the last decades, and decades before that. When David Anderson says, “We are doing the best we know how . . . ,” that is also bullshit.
When Jo says requiring a verbal assent would redefine romantic encounters, I hope she is being quoted out of context. I suspect not. The comment is disgusting. It is naive and begs the question about romantic encounters. Her comments demonstrate that she is an apologist for the college’s broken, yes broken, sexual assault policy and procedures. Like having the fox in charge of the hen house.
It is obvious to me–I am 65 and have seen so much of this over the years–that the college’s (and the board’s) primary objective is not the safety of students or their well being, but protecting their name from scandal. I believed then and believe now that their motive for clearing accused assailants was that they didn’t want to lose the tuition. Expelled? No more tuition.
You may use this story, repeat it, etc. as often as you want.
In closing, Your group has the basis for a class-action suit to end all class-action suits. At the very least, an independent party (news organization like WCCO or Star Trib) should investigate this–going back years and years.
The college will make many promises of policy review, committees to review, blah blah blah. What they depend on for this to go away is that you will graduate, or get caught up in classes and exams and won’t have any more time and energy.
Stick with it.
We intend to “stick with it,” and we hope that other concerned students and alumni stick with it as well.
WINDMILL OLIVIA FREY

We Are Ready to Act. Is St. Olaf Administration?

A month ago I told an administrative member of St. Olaf’s Title IX team that I would be wearing a shirt that called attention to my rape in order to raise awareness about the way St. Olaf botched the handling of my sexual assault case and the sexual assault cases of several of my fellow students.

The administrator replied: “If you want to come at the school, come at the school.”

A week ago myself and several allies did indeed “come at the school.”

Since then, most of St. Olaf’s campus has heard my story and begun a serious dialogue about the way that survivors of sexual assault are treated by administration. Various media outlets have taken note.

One might think that the success of this protest would indicate to the St. Olaf administration that survivors of sexual assault take serious issue with their policies, and that their concerns should be taken seriously.

Since last week, administrators have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not take our concerns seriously.

First, there was this email from President David Anderson and Title IX Coordinator Jo Beld, which came out on the first day my friends and I were wearing our shirts. This email attempted to pass off our protest as “Concerns with Sexual Assault” when the concerns at the heart of our protest lie with a sexual assault policy that utterly fails to protect Ole students from their assailants.

Then, came this email, which seemed to acknowledge the validity of our concerns. However, after speaking to  PDA and the Title IX team on Monday, communication from them to us has ceased.

Additionally, in that email our President tried to pre-empt my impending complaint to the Office of Civil Rights by asking for an independent review. This review would have been redundant, as I am already in the process of filing an OCR complaint. Tellingly, the OCR declined our administration’s request. This in no way means that the school will not be investigated by the OCR.

A recent “educational event” put on by the Title IX team took place in a small room packed full of students, many of whom had their own questions about the way in which Olaf has been handling sexual assault. President David Anderson was not in attendance.

During the event, a Title IX administrator could be seen checking Twitter. When asked why they were not paying attention to their colleagues’ presentation, the administrator responded “I have important things to do.” This is grossly disrespectful.

During the Q&A section an administrator was asked what sorts of actions could signify “overt consent” to sexual activity. The administrator responded with an anecdote about how hugging their spouse could imply consent. A student quickly noted that our sexual assault policy explicitly states “consent to a particular sexual activity cannot be inferred from consent to a different form of sexual activity.” The ignorance on the behalf of St. Olaf administration as to their own policy has been insulting.

And today, a third email from President David Anderson:

Dear Members of the St. Olaf Community,

Today an article was published in the Star Tribune that reflects the pain and conflict that sexual misconduct investigations bring to college campuses across the country. Sexual assault is one of the most difficult, complicated, and emotionally fraught issues that any college ever confronts.  It’s no different at St. Olaf where we do our best to provide a safe and supportive community for our students.

St. Olaf College does not tolerate sexual misconduct.  Our comprehensive Title IX policies address incidents that threaten the safety and well-being of our students. These policies have improved over time and we seek to continually improve them as we learn best practices from external experts and our own experiences.

Last week we asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to conduct an independent review of our Title IX policies. Yesterday the Department declined to conduct this review.

However, the issue of sexual misconduct is serious enough to warrant an immediate and thorough assessment of our policies.

That is why I am appointing a St. Olaf Title IX Working Group, which will include St. Olaf faculty, students, and alumni, as well as external experts.  The working group will be charged with reviewing our policies with rigor, responsibility and a strong commitment to our values, while complying with the latest federal and state regulations. Working group representatives will seek advice from students who have participated firsthand in St. Olaf’s Title IX processes, other colleges and universities with particularly robust policies, and other experts.

This summer the working group will present its recommendations, which will be shared with the St. Olaf community.  College leadership will be responsible for the implementation of any policy changes before the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Thank you for your support of the St. Olaf community.

Prior to receiving this e-mail, no one involved with our protest or with Student Government had heard of this “working group.” Additionally, various administrators expressed in conversation that members of our protest, all of whom are well versed in Title IX law, might be “too biased” to be a part of this “working group.”

Furthermore, this “working group” will meet over the summer, after every single person who is currently wearing a shirt has graduated.

President David Anderson today made the move to exclude the students who have given voice to concerns about St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy from further conversation about said policy. He has additionally failed to mention addressing our demands, which have been sponsored by a national Title IX rights advocacy group, Know Your IX.

This is shameful.

We are on campus and willing to engage in conversation right now. Student leaders in both SARN and our Student Government, including representatives from our schools It’s On Us task force are on campus and willing to engage this conversation right now.

We understand that concrete policy change can take time, but to put conversation on hold until the summer is disrespectful. We are ready to act.

We are ready for our administrators to stop delaying this process. We are ready for our administrators to take action.

 

08-559496+09OLAF040616

Petition to President David Anderson

Know Your IX, a nationally recognized organization that seeks to educate high school and college students about their rights under federal Title IX law is backing our petition to reform St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/st-olaf-college-should-protect-sexual-assault-survivors

Please show support of our cause by signing this petition. As we hope this website demonstrates, St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies have greatly harmed a good deal of survivors. This cannot continue.

 

Update After Meeting with Title IX Team

I am writing to report on our meeting with President David Anderson and the Title IX team at St. Olaf. Our desire is to be as transparent as possible regarding our conversations with administrators in order to bring about policy change.

Overall, we feel that administrators were open to hearing many of the demands we have made, and we are optimistic.

That being said, no amendments to the sexual assault policies or procedures have been approved, so we must continue advocating for change.

The administration needs to understand that the current policy has produced awful and unacceptable outcomes for many Oles, and that these changes are necessary. Our demands can be found here: https://mycollegeisprotectingrapists.wordpress.com/our-demands/

Over the course of the coming days, we will be providing clarification and offering more thorough rationale for many of our demands. Additionally, we will still be wearing our shirts and will continue to do so until there is adequate institutional reform on this campus.

We would like to emphasize that if you see any of us wearing a shirt, please continue to engage in discussion with us. We are interested in hearing the ideas and experiences of our peers and alumni. The administration’s willingness to accept policy change will be bolstered by the active involvement of the student body and concerned alumni.

In the meantime: current St. Olaf students, please join us in attending the event concerning sexual misconduct policy this Wednesday at 7:30 pm in Trollhaugen (3rd floor of Buntrock). The event is co-sponsored by the Title IX team, the Wellness Center and SARN. We hope to see you there!

POST-MEETING

Response to President David Anderson

This morning (April 2), President David Anderson sent this email to the Saint Olaf student body:

Dear Oles:

As many of you know, a recent college investigation into a charge of sexual assault has led to a controversy that has questioned both the sexual assault policy adopted by St. Olaf and the way it is implemented.

The criticisms and accusations being expressed on campus are of serious concern to all of us at St. Olaf.  Our policies addressing sexual violence have been developed with great care in order to prevent acts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault from happening, to stop them if they do occur, and to remedy their effects. While we have great confidence not only in the policies but also in the integrity and expertise of the individuals charged with carrying them out, no process is perfect. We welcome the St. Olaf community’s attention to this very important issue, and we welcome dialogue aimed at improving the process. We want to make sure that our process is fully understood and that it is open to continuous improvement.

I am going to request that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education conduct an independent review of our policies and their application to actual cases. We are inviting OCR’s review to ensure that our practices comply fully with federal standards and to demonstrate our commitment to transparency in our handling of these difficult cases.

In addition to this step, the St. Olaf Title IX team and I have invited the leaders of the concerned students vocalizing their discontent with the college’s policies to meet with us on Monday, April 4 so that we may listen to their concerns and suggestions.

That same week, the Title IX team, the Wellness Center and the student-led Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARN) will be co-hosting an education event for students about several Title IX policies.  This meeting had already been scheduled well before the events of this week transpired, and the concerned students have been encouraged to attend. [annotation: this meeting will take place Wednesday at 7:00pm in the Trollhaugen room in Buntrock Commons] 

We know that sexual assault is one of the most difficult, complicated, and emotionally-fraught issues that any college ever confronts.  We do the best job we know how to do in this challenging area, not only during the painful process of investigation, but in the aftermath as well.  In this, as in all areas of student life, we remain committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students.

PDA

We would like to publicly commend President David Anderson for what we see as a highly appropriate and professional response to the concerns we have raised.

That being said, this email means very little unless St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy and its manner of execution are reformed.

We look forward to engaging in conversations surrounding the St. Olaf sexual assault policy with administration, beginning Monday.