October 30, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. -- Amherst College President Biddy Martin has announced the formation of a new Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct charged with making recommendations for improvement in the College’s efforts to prevent and address asexual assault on campus.
Chaired by Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Margaret Hunt, the committee will meet weekly to gather information and develop recommendations.
“I am grateful to the members of our college community who have agreed to serve," President Martin said. “This Special Oversight Committee will help us set a course for enhancing the college's policies, services, and training in the area of sexual respect and misconduct. It will develop a comprehensive model of care, education and intervention, one that will help us set a new standard.”
Martin has identified five key areas for the Special Oversight Committee to consider. 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.
The Committee will use its work to develop recommendations for President Martin, who will then make recommendations to the Board of Trustees in January 2013.
The formation of the Special Oversight Committee is the latest step in Martin’s reevaluation of how Amherst addresses sexual assault and mental health on campus. Martin arrived at Amherst in August 2011, and identified these areas as needing major improvement early in her tenure.
In July 2012, Amherst College contracted with Gina Maisto Smith from the law firm Ballard Spahr to begin the process of overhauling the College’s response to sexual assault, as well as its framework for ensuring students’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
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
- Margaret Hunt, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
- Andrew Nussbaum, Trustee
- Marisa Parham, Associate Professor of English
- Paula Rauch, Trustee
- Liya Rechtman, Student (Class of 2014)
- Robert Wasielewski, Student (Class of 2014)