This is the full text of the letter referenced in Institutional Memory… redacted for confidentiality and as it appeared on the Go Boards. We still strongly recommend that you read the entire Go thread to better understand how the community responded, including the administration’s attempts to have the thread taken down and subsequent actions at plenary.
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To Haverford parents:
In light of the recent publication of a CNN.com article and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigative report on college’s responses to sexual assaults, we feel compelled to shed light on our family’s interactions with Haverford College concerning a similar situation. It is our hope that sharing this information will demonstrate the ways in which some college administrations handle claims of sexual assault as well as a victim’s rights in these types of situations. The links to the articles are at the end of this document.
Our daughter reported an incident to Psychological Services who labeled it a sexual assault. The Women’s Center affirmed this assessment and proceeded to counsel our daughter as to her options for action. As for next steps, she was advised according to Haverford’s policies that she could either: do nothing, report it to the police, resolve in mediation, or convene a Dean’s Panel. The Women’s Center advised that going to the police may not be a good idea because then it could come to a “he said, she said” situation. The latter was then opted for and was considered the best route by school advisors since the Haverford policy states that “cases of rape or sexual assault, as cases involving violence, will, according to our procedures, be handled by a Dean’s Panel.”
On the day of the Dean’s Panel, our daughter arrived with her [redacted] friend from her dorm while the accused arrived with [redacted], an attorney. The Dean’s Panel was abruptly postponed and the dean advised our daughter that mediation may be a better way to proceed. She trusted the dean and followed [redacted//the] advice. A mediation agreement was produced by the dean, signed by the victim and the accused, and the actual mediation was scheduled for almost two weeks later.
In mediation, the parties are expected to come to a “mutually agreeable” resolution. However during the mediation, the accused harassed and intimidated our daughter with threats of a lawsuit if she did not sign an agreement that he had created. In spite of this, she refused to sign as it stated untruths. All attempts to change the content by our daughter and the dean were not permitted by the accused and his family. He was allowed consultations with [redacted//some people] who have a background in law throughout the day. Finally, the deans left the victim and the accused alone to ‘work things out’. During this time, the intimidation continued and she broke, signing the Resolution Agreement under duress. It is important to note that the Office for Civil Rights “has frequently advised schools, however, that it is not appropriate for a student who is complaining of harassment to be required to work out a problem directly with the individual alleged to be harassing him or her.”
Subsequently, the deans involved stated that they were very uncomfortable validating the accused’s agreement and that his behavior during the mediation process was in violation of the Honor Code. Ultimately, our daughter retracted her signature, as she could not attest to the statements of untruth in the document.
Although by this time the allotted time for a ‘regular’ mediation to be completed had expired, the college allowed the process to continue via phone meetings. After several conversations and continued threats of a lawsuit, our daughter was ultimately sued by the accused for [redacted//mad bank]. Without proper legal counsel, she agreed to sign the resolution agreement drafted by the accused in exchange for dismissal of the lawsuit. At no time did the college stop the mediation and advise our family to obtain an attorney to protect ourselves. Discussing the situation with outside parties was against the Mediation Agreement.
In the months that passed, our daughter discussed with Haverford officials the ways in which the college could potentially improve the hostile environment that was created by the initial incident and the events that occurred during the mediation process. However, they did not resolve the situation as all proposed remedies were deemed by Haverford to be ‘not in her best interests’. They were not willing to take the accused up on Honor Code violations for his behavior during the mediation even though it is in clear breach of the Honor Code for one student to sue another in a mediation that is stated to be entered with ‘good faith in accordance with the precepts of the Haverford College Honor Code’. In total, six Deans, the Women’s Center, Psychological Services, the President, and the Board of Directors were involved with our daughter’s situation. We trusted the college to advise and protect our daughter based upon the high standards of the Honor Code but they did not do so as it is our belief that they were too fearful of legal ramifications.
Sexual assault is not only deemed in violation of the Honor Code, but violates the Department of Education’s Title IX Guidelines.
Please, if your child reaches out to you with a complaint in any way regarding assault, we urge you to be careful if you choose to proceed through the college’s processes. Although Haverford College has fairly comprehensive policies in place to deal with claims of sexual assault, in reality these policies do not always go far enough to protect the victim and are not consistently followed by the administration. These processes may have a different outcome for you, but we would be remiss if we did not share our experience and the information we have gathered in an attempt to protect you and your family from a similar fate.
We suggest the following measures be taken:
1. Instruct the victim that in order to protect him/herself, he/she should not name the accused to anyone outside of the school’s officials, police or parents.
2. File a police report, even if charges will not be pressed.
3. Insist to consult with the college’s Title IX Coordinator and ensure the victim is given written instructions as to their rights.
4. Ensure the victim is given the right to consent that their parents/guardian be notified and instructed of the victim’s civil rights under Title IX Guidelines.
5. Insist that the accused is not given the victim’s statement before the accused has a chance to recount the event in their own words. The accused is to be informed of the complaint against him/her and should create a statement of their recollection of the encounter, without having the victim’s statement first.
6. Do not agree to mediation as it is never recommended under Title IX.
The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative arm of the US Department of Justice has recently concluded a nine month investigation of how colleges handle claims of sexual assault. Their findings are documented in the report entitled:
Sexual Assault on Campus
A Frustrating Search for Justice
A culture of secrecy surrounds higher education’s handling of sexual assault cases.
Their findings reveal that this type of response to claims of sexual assault is not only occurring at Haverford, but at colleges across the country. College administrations are generally attempting to keep cases under wraps for the sake of their reputation, which in turn protects the school and not the victim. Although we hope that the school will soon change its policies to avoid this negative outcome to claims of sexual assault, for now we propose that if anyone is in a situation warranting the Haverford College policies regarding sexual assault, please be wary as these procedures have failed and can continue to fail when put into action.
For more information about this very important subject, please see the CNN summary
of the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/12/15/se … =allsearch.
The complete CPI investigation articles can be read at:
Please also visit the Security on Campus website which discusses the Cleary Act and the guidelines all colleges must follow to comply: http://www.securityoncampus.org