Things to Know – Friday, May 19, 2017

We are counting down to SWC Commencement and the celebrations continue on our campus. At the same time, we had a protest regarding a very serious subject; sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination. As this serious subject is a part of other college internal processes that have required a significant amount of my time since arriving almost four months ago, the Governing Board and I released the following statement. I hope you will read through this and consider how important it is as a faculty, staff, or college leader to model the type of behavior’s that sends the message to each other and our students that we take these issues seriously.

Southwestern College Governing Board’s and Superintendent/President’s Statement on Sexual Harassment/Assault.

We understand there have been incidents in the past of an uncoordinated approach to investigating sexual assaults/harassment.  That has changed since the Governing Board hired Dr. Murillo as Superintendent/President. 

Since January the Governing Board and Superintendent/President have taken concrete actions to expedite and ensure all student and employee complaints regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment are given proper attention and care. These actions include the following:

  1. The Acting Chief of Police Davis Nighswonger is actively working with the Southwestern College Police Department to ensure swift effective actions.
  2. The college has contracted with the Titan Group, and we are immediately independently investigating all complaints.
  3. We have hired a human resources professional to independently oversee all investigations.
  4. We are working to protect the integrity of the investigations.
  5. We set a goal to have all investigations completed as expeditiously as possible, understanding that solid, thoughtful investigations often take 60 to 90 days.
  6. We are committed to taking timely and appropriate action based on the investigation results. We must keep student and personnel actions private based on federal, state, and legal requirements.
  7. We recognize and ensure the privacy and rights of the complainant to provide services and support. Often victims suffer unseen and devastating consequences and we must be sensitive to ensure support services.
  8. We ensure privacy and rights of the accused are also upheld with integrity. Not all allegations are sustained.
  9. We worked with our bargaining group to move the Title IX Coordinator position forward for hiring.
  10. We implemented a new Board Policy No. 3540, and a handbook of the college’s new sexual misconduct rules has passed the Shared Consultation Council and is prepared for review and approval by the Governing Board. The policy and handbook will be the guiding principles for our college to provide both the enforcement and emotional support routes we must follow in such situations.
  11. The Superintendent/President reviews a report on all investigations every Friday, and informs the Board of any significant issues, timeframes, etc. 

The perceptions around investigations stem from strong feelings throughout the college about the time it has taken in the past for the college to investigate a variety of issues. We agree that delays can demoralize the accuser and the accused. That is why we have increased assistance to human resources through hiring a consultant to manage these complaints and requiring human resources to ensure all investigations are started within 48 hours. It is through this immediate attention and follow-up that we begin to show respect and dignity to our students and colleagues.

The college is also strengthening its processes and policies to address Title IX violations, including student sexual misconduct. We know that students with emotional and physical traumas, economic insecurity, child care needs and a host of external factors can be barriers to academic success, and the Governing Board and administration is committed to ensuring a supportive learning environment for all students. We also know it is hard to be accused of something, and to wait for the results of an investigation…sometimes the accusations are not sustained. These are important reasons to ensure we have effective, systematic processes.

It is our moral obligation to recognize our roles in ensuring students have all the tools they need to achieve their educational goals. That is why the college has invested in a series of workshops and trainings—from the community and in-house experts—that bring awareness to how students and staff can increase their personal safety and how they report crimes that occur on and off campus.

The Governing Board, Superintendent/President, and college leadership are committed to ensuring Southwestern College is safe from sexual assault, sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment.

Several of you have taken the time to write me back over a few of my more serious Things to Know. One of the concerns was around what is an investigation, how are they done etc. I will follow up with a description of how we do investigations next week. It is not mysterious, it is a very set protocol designed to ensure we understand the facts.

Just a personal lesson I have come to believe. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend until Sunday morning when my soon to be granddaughter developed the flu, ending with a visit to urgent care Sunday evening. On Tuesday, I started feeling cranky, a good indicator I may be getting ill. By Wednesday, I was full blown down with the flu. The lesson, is this is not something we want to share…when contagious we should stay home so we respect our fellow workers. As a caregiver, I have an obligation to take care of my family, and as a college employee I have an obligation to make sure I don’t share this particular joy. I hope I didn’t.

Stay well and enjoy all the celebrations of our employees and students.

When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others. Dalai Lama

I am grateful for having meaningful work, terrific colleagues and friends, and my family. Thank you for all you are doing to take care of our @SWC students.