Message from Sylvia Spears
This past week has been deeply challenging for me, my family, my communities of color, and for feeling people all over the globe. I am so weary. I have spent the past 25 years working to create more diverse, equitable, and socially just communities at colleges and universities. Yet, I can’t find real evidence of fundamental transformative change in education or in our society. As a result, this moment represents not only a crisis of consciousness for many but also existential crisis for me on so many levels.
I do find some comfort in the emails and social media contacts I have received unexpectedly from current and former students—some from Emerson, some from Dartmouth College, and even some from the University of Rhode Island. While I continue to question the meaning of my work in light of everything that is occurring, these students tell me that it has not been in vain.
They give me life, joy, and a reason to carry on.
Implementation of New Department of Education Regulations
As many of you are aware, the Department of Education recently published new Title IX regulations. Emerson, along with other colleges and universities across the country, is required to bring its policies and processes for the handling of reports of specific types of power-based interpersonal violence into compliance with these new regulations by August 14.
You may recall that the Presidential Working Group (PWG) recently published its draft report and recommended the establishment of a Standing Committee to facilitate communication and coordination of the College’s response to reports of power-based interpersonal violence and to assume responsibility for addressing recent changes to the Department of Education Title IX regulations. Due to the Department of Education’s deadline of August 14, for colleges and universities to come into compliance with new regulations, President Pelton and other senior leaders of the College have approved the immediate establishment of an ad hoc Steering Committee and relevant Sub-Committees to advance the work necessary to revise policies, establish new processes, and develop new trainings on Title IX specific to the new regulations. As such, Pam White, Associate Vice President & Title IX and Clery Act Coordinator, and I are convening a Steering Committee and corresponding Sub-Committees to assist us in advancing the necessary work to bring the College into compliance with these new regulations.
The Steering Committee and Sub-Committees members include students, union representation from both staff and faculty, academic deans, staff in areas of the College responsible for aspects of implementation of process changes as well as members of the College’s senior leadership team. These committees will focus very narrowly on implementing the new Department of Education Title IX regulations into the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. This work does not replace the work that is ongoing on the part of the Presidential Working Group, whose focus extended beyond the new regulations but was limited to the student ecosystem of sexual misconduct.
The Presidential Working Group
As many of you are aware, the Presidential Working Group (PWG) recently published its draft report, which includes their findings and recommendations. It is without question that the members of the PWG who participated in this academic year long endeavor did so out of a commitment to Emerson students and to the College. When the PWG launched, I shared with the Berkeley Beacon that the group was taking on an important and herculean task.
The PWG has opened a comment period on their draft report that closes today, June 5. As Vice President for Equity & Social Justice and supervisor for Title IX Access & Equity and the Healing & Advocacy Collective, I have thoughtfully considered the findings and recommendations of the PWG. I have drafted comments that I hope will provide some additional insights and context for this important body of work. Consistent with the public nature of the draft report from the Presidential Working Group, I will also make my comments on the report, as well as the comments submitted by Title IX Access & Equity and the Healing & Advocacy Collective, accessible to the Emerson Community. You can find these comments at: https://bit.ly/sjcresponses2020
If you are currently looking for ways to engage in solidarity, we encourage you to use the many resources that people have already created explaining white supremacy, structural violence, and how to build an anti-racist practice. We ask that you begin to do your own work to deepen your understanding in lieu of asking individuals and communities of color to do more labor to facilitate your learning or to give you guidance about what to do.