A message to our students: We have miles to go

April 27, 2018

To our students:

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the Title Mine rally at the Danforth University Center. I valued being there to support, listen and learn from everyone who participated. It was a heart-wrenching two hours. Hearing the personal stories and knowing that we have fallen short in effectively supporting victims of life-shattering sexual assaults is very difficult. I am deeply troubled that even one of our students would be assaulted by another student. It was extremely important to me to hear firsthand from you, and I appreciated the opportunity to be present.

I heard the pain. I heard the frustration. I heard that we have work to do on multiple fronts — from doing more to prevent sexual assault and sexual misconduct; to providing more support for survivors; to better handling the Title IX process.

Over the past couple of years — based on recommendations from a student, faculty and staff Task Force on Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence and feedback from our listening sessions with students this academic year — steps have been taken (an overview of some of the most recent is attached). But it is clear that we have miles to go.

Today, I commit to you that we will accomplish the following by the start of the fall semester:

  1. Develop a plan to streamline our Title IX process — without jeopardizing fairness or thoroughness — to reduce stress on students involved; reduce timelines; and increase sensitivity.
  2. Invest more resources in mental health services and survivor support; Title IX investigative staff; and training, especially to make the process and those who support our students more trauma-informed and more sensitive to all identities.
  3. Create a peer advocacy program that will assist students going through the Title IX process and provide advice to the Title IX office.
  4. Establish accountability measures with opportunities for student feedback.

I have asked Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White to oversee this work and report back to me throughout the summer on our progress.

We also intend to continue the dialogue we started with our students through the listening sessions. The input has been extremely helpful and we want to continue to work together so we become the kind of community we aspire to be.

It is imperative that we follow through on these commitments. And we intend to do so.


Mark S. Wrighton