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