Letter to Trinity Community Regarding Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Clery Report

September 29, 2014
 
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
 
One month ago, I wrote to tell you of my commitment—and that of our College—to addressing the issue of sexual misconduct. As a first step, I announced the formation of the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct, which I will chair. Today, I want to update you on Trinity’s work to address this important subject.
 
At Trinity, we are committed to preventing sexual misconduct and ensuring we provide the full support individuals need should sexual misconduct occur. We are building on a solid foundation, which includes broader awareness of the Trinity Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) as a welcoming resource for students;  stepped-up bystander intervention training for students, including first-year students; enhanced training of RAs, other student leaders, and College officials; the educational programs of the student group Students Encouraging Consensual Sex (SECS); and the creation of an anonymous reporting option for the campus, among others. These efforts have resulted in increased incident reporting and our related ability to respond. While we have seen the efficacy of these steps, we must—and we will—do more.
 
The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct is almost fully constituted. In addition to the 12 individuals I announced earlier, we are currently receiving the names of student and faculty nominees.  This final group of key individuals from Trinity’s campus will meet over the current semester and beyond and will consider a wide range of ways to address the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct of all kinds.  We will also equip the College to be prepared for compliance with new state and federal regulations affecting colleges and universities.  I am confident the individuals in this group will demonstrate the seriousness and commitment I have asked of them in addressing this most important issue.
 
Each year on October 1, Trinity and other colleges and universities are required by law to release the Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report for the preceding year. The report complies with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Act (the Clery Act). This year’s report contains crime statistics for the three previous calendar years of 2011, 2012, and 2013.  It also includes institutional policies concerning campus safety, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual assault, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, and other topics. Trinity’s report is released by the Office of Campus Safety.
 
Our director of Campus Safety, Francisco Ortiz, will issue Trinity’s report this Wednesday via an e-mail to the campus community and a link to the report on the Campus Safety Web site.  This year’s report includes a substantial increase during 2013 in the number of reported sex offenses on or near campus.  A number of people on campus are looking more closely at these numbers to determine what we can learn and where we can improve. At the same time, we believe firmly that a major reason for the increase in the number of reports is more frequent bystander, anonymous, and victim reporting—a key goal of our campus-wide efforts to address the issue of sexual misconduct.  As we proceed with the recommendations of the task force and others, we will report back again. A possible outcome is that continued higher reporting numbers will reflect our own ongoing efforts to encourage individuals to come forward.  Without question, however, our broader goal is to reduce and ultimately eliminate incidents of sexual misconduct so that every student, faculty member, and staff member feels—and is—safe.

This Friday, Trinity has the honor of hosting the conference “Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus: Why Now?” sponsored by the Connecticut chapter of the American Association of University Women.  Panelists from Connecticut and beyond will discuss this timely topic, and I look forward to giving the welcoming address to this group. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) has been invited to attend.  This is another opportunity for us to learn and to create stronger programs on our campus.
 
I will continue to give you updates on this important work that we must do together.
 
Sincerely,
 
Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College
   Professor of Neuroscience