Over the past three months, so many of you shared thoughtful ideas and concerns and provided encouragement and prayers as our Working Group embarked on an important study of St. Olaf’s Title IX policy.
While we heard differing perspectives on how to better accomplish several matters, in my opinion the St. Olaf community shares a common overarching goal: the safety of the college’s current and prospective students.
In early April, President David Anderson asked if I would lead a Working Group to conduct a comprehensive review of St. Olaf’s Title IX policy, practices, support resources, and related matters. As a condition of accepting this position, I required that the Working Group be completely independent and have the authority to retain independent advisors. President Anderson agreed and framed our charge to be thorough, comprehensive, and actionable.
The 10 members of the Working Group brought differing backgrounds and perspectives and had varying degrees of experience with Title IX and sexual assault. That said, we all share the St. Olaf community’s strong common desire to ensure St. Olaf is a safe and supportive place for current and future students.
Intense and emotional process
The process was intense and, at times, emotional. Although our charge did not include the review of individual case files, we heard from so many courageous students who shared their painful experiences. We also heard from members of St. Olaf’s Title IX Team, all of whom were candid, helpful, and open to change. We received training. We attended student and faculty forums. We read every comment and suggestion that was submitted online. Everyone helped us see St. Olaf’s culture through varied lenses and experiences.
We have been greatly assisted by two of the nation’s foremost experts on Title IX: Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez from Pepper Hamilton. Ms. Smith and Ms. Gomez have helped colleges across the country confront the issue of sexual assault and institutions’ responses to it. Their knowledge is fresh and relevant. Their encouragement and insight were invaluable to the Working Group and others with whom they engaged throughout the process.
I have the utmost respect and extend my deepest appreciation for their passion and tireless work with St. Olaf and other higher education institutions throughout our nation to prevent sexual assault and ensure that students who experience sexual assault are supported.
I am also grateful to President Anderson for providing the Working Group with this opportunity to confront a very difficult issue in an open, transparent and inclusive way. President Anderson respected the independence of the Working Group. He honored the integrity of our process and our timeline, despite pressure from the community for immediate answers. He frequently and consistently affirmed his confidence in the Working Group and his intent to faithfully consider our recommendations and implement appropriate changes for the 2016–17 academic year.
I am humbled by and grateful for the dedication and wisdom of the Working Group members who gave so generously of their time and attention.
The Working Group Report to the Community (download PDFs of the Executive Summary and Final Report) documents what we heard from the St. Olaf community, our deliberations, and our recommendations. The report is the result of the courage and commitment of the St. Olaf community — including college leadership — to continually evaluate how to more effectively confront the difficult and complex issue of sexual assault.
Diverse beliefs and ideas
St. Olaf is a community of diverse beliefs and ideas, and we have heard many and varied perspectives through this process. We expect that there may be many responses to the Working Group’s deliberations and recommendations. Some may feel that we have gone too far; some, not far enough. In reality, there are many “right” ways to respond. Our goal was to find the right way for St. Olaf to respond. We also recognize that the college’s work in this area should never be complete — that we should continue to assess, challenge, and improve as a college, a community, and a culture.
I pray that proactively implementing the Working Group recommendations will enhance prevention and bring more care and compassion when incidents happen.
I am hopeful that the Working Group process has been — and that the implementation of the recommendations will continue to be — a path toward healing for many individuals and the entire St. Olaf community.
Together I know we will create a more receptive culture where Oles are encouraged to talk about these issues before and when they happen. And I know that we can have a process that is representative of the care and compassion that is so bountiful in the St. Olaf community.
Tim Maudlin ‘73
Chair, Title IX Working Group
Member of the St. Olaf Board of Regents