President David Anderson sent this email to the St. Olaf Community today:
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:
- Submit recommendations, concerns and ideas
- Learn more about working group members
- Read the charge that will guide the group’s work
- Access meeting summaries, timelines, and updates
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.
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.