October 31, 2012

Dear Amherst Community,
I write to announce the formation of the new Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct. I have charged this committee with making recommendations for improvements in Amherst’s efforts to prevent and address sexual misconduct on campus and beyond.

I am grateful to all members of this new committee, whose names are listed below, and I am particularly grateful to Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Margaret Hunt, who has graciously agreed to chair the committee.

I have asked the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct to consider five key areas in their weekly meetings. These include:

  • Campus environment: taking stock of Amherst’s campus culture, and identifying ways that it impedes or facilitates sexual respect among students.
  • Resources: examining the structure and mission of Amherst Student Affairs, and making recommendations for how to restructure and redistribute its resources. This includes the Dean of Students office, the Health Center, and the Counseling Center.
  • Education: recommending improvements to Amherst’s sexual education programs, to better promote gender equity and healthy sexual behavior on campus.
  • Recent history: distilling lessons learned from recent instances of sexual misconduct at Amherst, as well as from the experiences of other institutions.
  • Policy and Title IX: providing a summary of recommendations for policy changes throughout the school, including those associated with Title IX.

After studying these five key areas for the next two months, the committee will make recommendations to me. I will then share these recommendations with Amherst’s Board of Trustees at the January 2013 Board meeting.

The formation of the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct is the latest step in our reevaluation of how Amherst addresses sexual assault and mental health on campus, and the overarching goal in thoughtfully and thoroughly studying these particular areas is to ensure the safety and well-being of all community members while simultaneously beginning to shift Amherst’s culture around issues of sexual respect and sexual misconduct.

The full list of Special Oversight Committee members is as follows:

  • Sarah Barr, Director of Academic Engagement Programs
  • John T. Cheney, Associate Dean of the Faculty
  • Suzanne Coffey, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Athletics
  • Margaret Hunt, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Chair of the Committee
  • Andrew Nussbaum ’85, Trustee
  • Marisa Parham, Associate Professor of English
  • Paula Rauch ’77, P’00, ’08, Trustee
  • Liya Rechtman, Student (Class of 2014)
  • Robert Wasielewski, Student (Class of 2014)

Thanks so much to the many members of this community who have been in touch to share their stories and ideas and to offer support and suggestions. All feedback has been, and will continue to be, greatly valued.

Kind regards,

President Martin