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Assume a proactive stance and adopt the following proposals to combat the prevalence of sexual assault at Williams College

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Dear President Falk and members of the Williams College administration, 

 

While my parents and I understand that the College cannot replace the criminal justice system, it must do its utmost to protect students at an exemplary level. As an elite liberal arts institution, let us learn from the mistakes of the past. If Williams is serious about combating the prevalence of sexual assaults on campus, we strongly assert that the College needs to assume a proactive stance and adopt the following proposals:

 

The priority of Williams College regarding the reporting (not including the investigation) of cases of sexual assault should be upholding the best interests of the victim.

1. Students who report victimization should not be discouraged by any member of the Williams College administration to report to the police and pursue criminal investigation in addition to seeking disciplinary action through the College’s own channels.

 

A Williams education and membership in the community is a privilege, not a right.

2. Therefore, we assert that the consequence in sexual assault cases involving penetration by force, deliberate incapacitation with intention of penetration by force, and cases regarding repeat offenders (students who have previously been found guilty of sexual assault) must be mandatory expulsion.

 

We fully support the recent change in policy: henceforth, a panel of trained professionals from outside the college — instead of a committee of students, faculty, and staff — will adjudicate cases of sexual assault

3. This critical policy change should be strengthened by contracting with experienced investigators, skilled in areas of interviewing, assessment of statements and credibility, and detection of deception, all of which will enhance the quality of the investigative work product. Current members of the Williams administration, even assuming their best intentions and motives, simply do not have the skills to be effective, especially when incidents require reconciliation of conflicting accounts.

 

A high degree of transparency must be maintained throughout the investigation for both the victim and the accused.

4. Confidentiality agreements should be sworn to by all parties — including witnesses who testify — and any violation of confidentiality or perjury should result in immediate disciplinary action.

5. During the trial, both parties should be allowed access to a transcript of any witness testimony.

6. Any trial process should be conducted in a thorough and efficient manner, and should not last longer than 60 days. 

7. The verdict — and the rationale behind it — should be fully explained to both parties.

 

Violence and retaliation against the victim should not and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

8. Any act of retaliation or harassment against the victim, by any member of the Williams community, should be be punishable by expulsion.

9. Accommodations for housing should encompass protection for the victim, not only from the assaulter, but also from anyone involved in allegations of harassment or victimization. 

 

Meg Bossong, the newly-appointed Director of Sexual Assault, is assuming a critical and necessary role within the college’s administration. In order to fully understand the extent to which sexual assault plagues Williams College, she should seek to increase transparency and review past cases of sexual assault.

10. Bossong should revise the college website so that policies, rules, and procedures are more accessible and clearly expressed

11. Bossong should contact and interview all recent victims of sexual assault. She should specifically ask:

    1. What the college did well in handling the case.
    2. What the college did not do well in handling the case.
    3. If the victim has suggestions for how to encourage other victims to report assaults.
    4. If the victim has suggestions as to rules or policies that would discourage sexual assault.

 

I, along with with numerous alumni, trustees, and current students, as concerned members of the Williams community, ask that Williams College acknowledge that sexual assault is a severe problem on campus and strongly consider adopting the above preventative and proactive measures in order to work to ensure the safety of the Williams community.

 

We understand that the above measures are extensive and will require a redistribution of resources; however, we believe that Williams must take immediate and substantive action against sexual assault. We look forward to seeing the implementation of these policies and other improvements. Furthermore, we look forward to advising our friends, alumni, and students that Williams College has effected changes to their sexual assault policies, making them a leader in combating sexual assault on college campuses, an act that we find commendable, thus regaining our respect and support.

 

Respectfully,

Lexie Brackenridge



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