Hampshire College reaches Title IX agreement with Department of Education

UMass and Amherst College still under review


(Collegian File Photo)

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

After more than three years under review Hampshire College has finally amended their Title IX policy, which addresses sexual assault, to provide more administrative responses and education.

In a letter to the campus on February 2, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash wrote that the administration had worked “collaboratively” with the Office for Civil Rights on Title IX compliance. While the OCR made “some findings” about prior college policies, Lash noted that there are no findings of non-compliance with Title IX in implementation.

“From the start, we have endeavored to be proactive in updating our policies and processes to incorporate the evolving Federal law and guidance and to reflect practices that are fair and balanced for all parties,” Lash said. “I am proud of the work of the Title IX team through this process.”

Hampshire College was placed under review by the U.S. Department of Education in 2014, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Lash commented that the OCR’s review was “not prompted by any individual complaint against Hampshire,” but focused on the College’s policies and procedures on sexual and gender-based harassment and violence.”

The OCR webpage notes that Title IX “applies to institutions that receive federal financial assistance from the [DE].” OCR conducts investigations prompted by “complaints alleging sex discrimination,” as well as “proactive investigations, called compliance reviews,” to assess “potential systemic violations based on sources of information other than complaints.”

John Courtmanche, Hampshire College Media Relations and Editorial Director, added that the College was “encouraged that the [OCR] has recognized that Hampshire has taken action throughout the three-year review.”

According to Courtmanche, since 2011 Hampshire College has taken major steps such as the expansion of staff from one half-time Title IX coordinator to a team comprised of a full-time Title IX coordinator and four deputies. The College has also revised its Title IX policies and procedures, instituted measures to oversee the handling of Title IX complaints and expanded efforts to provide education, training and practices for addressing and preventing sexual violence and harassment.

Lash wrote that he is also convening “a committee to examine what policies Hampshire should put in place to address historical incidents of sexual harassment involving individuals no longer at the College.”

The review of previous incidents was clarified in the formal Hampshire Resolution Agreement closing the review. Written in the agreement, all annual case files from 2014 to 2018 will include an “assessment of whether the case was resolved in a manner consistent with Title IX.”

The agreement also included requirements within the Five College Consortium, including “coordinating with other Five College Institutions.” Protocol was established for reports involving a Five College Interchange student or Five College Shared Employee, ensuring Title IX coordinators at the respective schools “promptly and effectively communicate with one another.”

The Hampshire College Sexual Misconduct and Campus Safety Advisory Council, which is made up of both staff and students, established that, while it does not “alter or change policy,” it will “make recommendations…about how to be most effective in communicating to our community those policies and continue to demonstrate what the [college] has and continues to accomplish to respond effectively to reports of sexual and relationship violence as well as efforts to prevent it from happening.”

Lash wrote that he wanted to recognize the “#MeToo movement” for “bringing to light the experiences of millions” affected by “inappropriate and illegal behaviors.”

“I salute the bravery of those who are speaking out,” Lash stated. “They will change our culture for the better.”

The University of Massachusetts and Amherst College are still under review by the OCR, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. UMass has been under review since June 2011.

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten