Dear University of Richmond Alumni,
I am writing to share my thoughts about the subject of sexual violence and the difficult but important conversations that have taken place in our community this past week following the publication of an essay by one of our students concerning the University’s handling of her sexual assault complaint.
I am very grateful to those in the alumni community who have expressed their strong commitment to ensuring the safest possible environment for our students, to extensive and effective education and prevention programs, to thoroughly respectful care and response to victims of sexual violence, and to a fair and impartial investigation and hearing process with appropriate outcomes. I also want to thank those of you who have already been part of this dialogue at events on campus, by communicating directly with me and my colleagues, and in leading conversations among yourselves. Finally, and importantly, I want to express appreciation specifically to members of our Richmond family who have shared their own powerful stories.
With the University community as a whole, I personally am deeply committed to ending sexual violence on our campus and to ensuring a safe, respectful, and caring community in which all members can thrive. This is both an institutional responsibility and an individual and collective responsibility of all members of our university community. The leadership, input, and engagement of our alumni represent an important element of our work.
Let me provide a brief summary of recent conversations on campus and some of the things we are doing. Last Thursday evening on our campus, following a planned sexual assault education program called It Ends Now, we heard many thoughtful comments and deeply held convictions from members of our community. We have had several further student discussions and a faculty forum I convened yesterday with the Faculty Senate; other conversations, including one with university staff, are scheduled. I am also continuing meetings with student government leaders. URAA President Connor Marsden has provided me a set of specific suggestions and actions proposed by the URAA, and he remains committed to helping us to identify ways to engage alumni in these discussions as we move forward.
The community has many important suggestions and observations to offer, and we want to gather those suggestions about what more we might be doing to address and end sexual violence on our campus and to support and care for those who report incidents of sexual violence. I encourage any member of the University of Richmond community—including alumni—who would like to share a perspective or suggestion (anonymously if you wish) to do so here:prevent.richmond.edu/contact.
To provide context on some of the questions that have arisen in the course of recent discussions, a set of frequently asked questions has been posted on the Richmond website with information on our process for investigating reports of sexual misconduct. You can find that at: richmond.edu/sexualmisconduct.
I also want to address a few specific points that reflect our commitment to preventing sexual violence on our campus. First, let me reiterate the University’s commitment to funding a permanent position dedicated to sexual misconduct education and prevention. We are already in the process of filling that temporarily vacant position and when grant funding expires, institutional resources will sustain the position. Second, I want to be clear that the University responds actively to any report of sexual misconduct and remains committed to a thorough and impartial investigation and hearing process, in which no student receives preferential treatment. This impartiality is unequivocal. Finally, I want you to know that we have engaged an external firm with significant experience and expertise in this area to review our processes for investigating and responding to allegations of sexual misconduct.
The University has in place extensive and comprehensive programs to educate our students on how to prevent sexual assault, to train all members of our community to recognize and respond to incidents of sexual assault, to provide compassionate care for those who have been assaulted, and to discipline those who through our judicial review process are found to have perpetrated acts of sexual violence. I see this commitment as an affirmation of the ideals we hold as a community as well as a demonstration of our resolve to end sexual violence on our campus. This is a challenge on campuses nationally, and it is an area in which we will continue to review our processes and programs and make changes as needed. An external review can help us to identify areas where we can do better.
I will report back to the University community by Fall Break, in October, based on input received by September 30 and will consult with student, faculty, staff, administrative, and alumni leadership in shaping action steps emerging from the input. As an academic, intellectual, and caring community, I know that we will all bring to this issue our best thinking.
Our candid campus conversations to date have reflected great care for survivors of sexual violence and a willingness to be part of ensuring we do whatever we can to fulfill our individual and shared responsibility for the safety of our community. As faculty, staff, students, and administrators, we know that it is our job and responsibility to help students, to care for them, and to contribute to the well-being of each individual and our community as a whole. The support and engagement of our alumni is likewise essential to our future as a University. We know you share our deep concern for the well-being of our students, and we want you to be certain of our conviction with respect to ending sexual violence on our campus. I look forward to our continued work together.
Ronald A. Crutcher