January 30, 2013

In October 2012, President Biddy Martin, with the support of the Board of Trustees, empaneled a special committee to make recommendations for improvements in the College’s efforts to prevent and address sexual assault and sexual misconduct at Amherst College. This action was taken following the emergence of disturbing accounts of cases of sexual assault and misconduct. At its meeting in October, the Board heard firsthand from many members of the Amherst community, including a delegation of students. The urgency of the issue was plain.

The Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct was composed of members of all parts of the Amherst community. Its mandate was broad: to look at both the present and the past; to explore the experience of other institutions; to examine the specifics of policy and practice at Amherst; to consider wider issues of campus life and culture; and to offer a comprehensive set of recommendations. The committee was instructed to deliver its report to the President and the Board within a matter of months. The report would be shared with the Amherst community and the public.

At its January 2013 meeting, this past weekend, the Board of Trustees received the Report of the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct. It is the unanimous expectation of the Board that the recommendations will be considered immediately by the administration and by the appropriate bodies at the College. Of central importance are the reorganization of the dean of students’ office; increasing staffing where necessary; and ensuring coordination of administrative functions across the College. The President, with the full support of the Board, will make these matters a priority. In cases where Board action is needed or sought, the Board will act swiftly. The Board supports the strong leadership that has been shown from the outset by President Martin, who has already instituted significant changes and has engaged in intensive conversations with students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and expert advisors from around the country.

We are grateful to the members of the committee for their prompt and thorough review, and to all members of the campus community who assisted in the committee’s work. Issues of sexual assault and misconduct are a reality at every college and university. In going forward, Amherst must take all possible steps to prevent cases of sexual misconduct and to address them immediately if they occur. We deeply regret the pain caused to any member of the community. The College must hold itself accountable, but it must and will do more: Amherst will strive to make itself a model among institutions of higher learning in our policies and our procedures, and in our conduct as a community.