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The Carletonian

A legacy of support

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In 2010, we radically changed the sexual misconduct complaint process at Carleton. Five years later, the campus is again engaged in dialogue about fair processes and survivor support. You will be best positioned to make meaningful change now if you know how a generation of students, staff, and faculty achieved change before you. Here is that story.

The process we inherited was broken. As a member of CAASHA, I saw survivors struggle through a complaint process that was opaque (information was limited and hard to find), lonely (no advisers or anyone to guide them through the process), and unnecessarily painful (uncomfortable investigations led to closed-door adjudications by one person, followed inevitably by appeal to an untrained board of five people).

In the spring of 2009, frustrations with this sexual misconduct complaint process boiled over, prompting scores of students (and faculty and staff) to write letters to campus administrators. The deans thanked us for raising critical issues and extended a hand that we might work together toward change. Like the campus conversation today, our change process started with passionate activism. But genuine change happened because we were able to channel activist energy into constructive suggestions and work collaboratively alongside Carleton administrators.

I served on the committee charged with reviewing and recommending changes to the complaint process. Throughout our year-long review I was often struck by the care that Carleton community members have for each other and our school. Sexual assault is not a topic that tends to draw crowds, but when invited to a town hall meeting, our community turned out in droves. More than 200 people filled the Great Hall to engage in conversation about how to design processes that are fair, support that is compassionate, and campus culture that is respectful and safe. This productive community dialogue was essential.

With recommendations from the committee and mandates from the President and the community at large, the Dean of Students office implemented sweeping changes to the complaint process. You can read about these changes in great detail on the sexual misconduct webpage: a pool of advisers for complainants and respondents, a smaller and better trained review board, information that is transparent and easily available, the Community Concern form to encourage early intervention, and proactive education and prevention programs. These chang- es were not easy to make, but with the tireless work of Julie Thornton and the implementation team, all of the review committee’s recommendations were implemented and rolled out in under six months. Carleton was ahead of its time, overhauling its approach years before the national spotlight put pressure on its peers to do the same.

There is certainly still more progress to be made. We didn’t create a perfect or painless process and the campus is not completely free of sexual violence. Perhaps these are goals we can only approach and never fully reach, but I believe Carleton will keep trying. Expanding and improving Carleton’s sexual misconduct prevention and response will require more of the same activism, support, and collaboration we have benefitted from in the past.

My hope is that you, and each generation of students that follow, will recognize that you do not need to start from scratch. Build on the changes we worked so hard for. Take up the baton. Agitate for change, but don’t simply rail against the system. Offer ideas. Offer to help. Inform yourself about Carleton’s processes and history. You have staff and faculty who know where Carleton has been and who have dedicated themselves to improving sexual assault prevention and response. You are part of a legacy of Carls who care deeply about supporting survivors and have worked to make Carleton a safer, more compassionate place.

Ms. Kimball ‘10 was a member of CAASHA for three years and served on the committee that reviewed and recommended changes to the sexual misconduct process in the 2009-10 school year. After graduating, she worked for the College to help implement the recommended changes.

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