The Administration’s Response to Recent Sexual and Gender Based Misconduct Incidents
Each time there is a reported Sexual and Gender Based Misconduct (SGBM) incident here on campus, a safety alert is sent out to the Skidmore Community, and bright lime green posters listing what was stated in the email are also posted on every door. So far this year, there have already been three reported incidents of SGBM. Recently, the Skidmore administration has been addressing the incidents and giving an overall response to SGBM here on campus.
On Tuesday October 6, Interim Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs, Gail Cummings-Danson, sent an email to all students and faculty. The subject of the email was “Update on Campus Safety Alerts,” and the email addressed the recent incidents on campus. As Cummings-Danson wrote in the email, “these incidents are of great concern. This behavior will not be tolerated and thorough investigations are well underway.”
Cummings-Danson’s email talked about how they are working to investigate all three incidents that have happened thus far, and have worked to increase campus safety presence in hope of helping to prevent future incidents. Her email then proceeded to talk about how she has requested that Residential Life staff hold meetings for each residence hall to discuss these incidents and provide updates to the students.
Around 2:00pm on Thursday October 8th, students were sent an email alerting them of the time and location of the meetings that Cummings-Danson mentioned in her email. These meetings were to be hosted by the Office of Residential Life and members of the SGBM Advisory Council that evening, in each residential hall, from either 8:00-8:45pm or 9:00-9:45pm
The meeting was divided into two parts. The first part of the meeting, that lasted about 20 minutes, was filled with general information about what was being done in regards to the recent SGBM incidents and talking about resources available to students. For those that had read Cummings-Danson’s email from earlier this week, it seemed that at this part of the meeting they were just repeating everything that had been discussed in the email and no new information was being shared. They did bring up multiple times that, due to the personal nature of these incidents, a lot of details could not be shared, but investigations were being conducted on all three incidents. It was then shared that Mariel Martin, Associate Dean of Student Affairs/Title IX Deputy Coordinator, had shared that she thought that some or all of the incidents might be related. The second half of the meeting was a question and answer period where students could ask any questions that they had or state any concerns.
According to the email from Cumming-Danson, the reporting of SGBM incidents is increasing. So far this year, three incidents have already been reported while last year only seven were reported all year. If the number of reported incidents keeps continuing at the same rate as it has been since the beginning of the year, by the end of the year it is likely that, in comparison to last year, we will have an over 200% increase in the number of reported incidents. “We know from our survey data over the last ten years that the incident rate of SGBM on campus is not changing,” said Cummings-Danson in her email. What is changing is the reporting rate.
In addition to increasing campus safety presence on campus, in particular in the residence halls at night and on the weekends, Cummings-Danson’s email listed some other measures that were being taken in order to help prevent future incidents. These measures were also all discussed at the meetings on October 8th, and include “engaging in a campus-wide audit of all residence hall bathroom locks to determine that they are functioning properly,” and encouraging students to know that “your Resident Assistant/Unit Assistant, staff is regularly available and on call from 9pm-7am,” as was said by Cummings-Danson in her email.
The email also listed actions that President Phillip Glotzbach, has done in addressing SGBM. The first of his actions include a letter to the Skidmore community that he sent on September 8th, stating that SGBM was a top priority and highlighting upcoming SGBM information sessions. Another measure that Glotzbach has already taken is that he sent a letter on September 28th to all families and guardians that highlighted the recent Scope Magazine article that talks about Skidmore’s response to SGBM.
One last measure that has been taken by the administration, and was highlighted in the email and the meetings is that on October 5th the Title IX and Conduct Offices offered open office hours to discus SGBM.
“I continue to be in conversations with members of SGA [Student Government Association], Peer Health Educators and others to discuss future preventive actions that will be taken,” said Cummings-Danson.
The Skidmore News Co-Editor in Chief, Jacob Reiskin (’17), reached out on October 5th, to Martin and Cummings-Danson in request for a comment on the fact we have had three public sexual misconduct incidents this year. Martin commented with the following:
“As indicated in the safety alerts that have gone out to everyone in the community, we are currently working to investigate these incidents. I have also sent an email to all students living in our residence halls and on-campus apartments requesting that they share any information they have in order to aid in our investigation (via open office hours today and Wednesday, in addition to the Campus Safety TIPS line). The email also included information reminding students of on- and off-campus support and reporting resources.”
Reiskin also reached out to Joshua Woodfork, Executive Director of the Office of the President and coordinator of strategic initiatives, asking if the president’s office could provide a comment on the fact we have had three public sexual misconduct incidents this year. Woodfork commented the following:
“Please know that the President finds these incidents troubling and renews his call for our community to reject any forms of sexual and gender-based conduct, which he referenced in his 9/8/15 "Welcome to the Academic Year" message. Safety of all our students and other community members remains President Glotzbach's top priority. He has repeatedly asked that we aspire to be a community based on mutual respect in which we have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct… Again, please know that we find these events unacceptable and we are working with the Dean of Students, Campus Safety, and Sexual and Gender-Based Advisory Council to ensure safety and that adequate preventative measures are in place. We are also asking that Residential Life facilitate community conversations within Residence Halls to foster awareness and attention to these matters.”