Amherst has not tried to sweep a sexual assault problem under the rug, a committee told the Amherst College Board of Trustees at its meeting Wednesday, but it has often responded inadequately to cases of misconduct. After a string of rape allegations and accusations of administrative carelessness roiled the Amherst campus in October, President Carolyn (Biddy) Martin formed the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct to review policies and make recommendations to prevent and address sexual misconduct.
“This committee believes strongly that Amherst must acknowledge the problem of sexual misconduct openly and address it directly,” the committee said in its report, while noting that the problem is not unique to Amherst. “If our system is believed to be unfair or unjust it will serve no one well.” The college’s response to sexual misconduct cases have been “quite mixed and at times inadequate,” the report says.
Martin said in a letter to the college Wednesday that many of the committee’s recommendations are already being put in place. She also revealed the findings of a separate but related external review of whether Amherst followed its policies in responding to the student who made a visceral, public rape allegation that sparked a string of similar stories. The investigation found that Amherst failed at protocols that “precluded a successful response.”
Broadly speaking, the committee recommends that the college should: improve its compliance "to both the letter and the spirit of the law" of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; continue fostering an inclusive, respectful campus community; improve communication within student affairs, which was a major obstacle for alleged victims; try harder to integrate first-year students, especially women, onto campus; raise awareness of sexual violence and its effects in society and on campus, reach out to all campus constituencies – male and female; revisit its alcohol policies and student programming to encourage healthier drinking habits and more low-alcohol alternatives; and develop more appropriate spaces for social activity that are large, open, and minimize the risk of sexual misconduct.
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