Dear MICA Community,
On June 17th we wrote to inform you that the Sexual Harassment and Violence Advisory Council (SHVAC) had delivered their report. This report was the culmination of a year's worth of independent investigation into how MICA as a community responds to acts of sexual harassment or violence. In that communication we promised to provide a more detailed response by the end of July, and we are pleased to offer that response now. The executive summary of the SHVAC report is attached to this communication, and the full report is available online as noted below.
On behalf of the College's leadership we want to continue to thank the members of SHVAC for the tremendous time, energy, and thoughtfulness they put into this work. As you will see they were extremely thorough and brought a welcome critical eye to how MICA can improve and be the leader we aspire to be. It is in MICA's fabric to honor self-critique, and we hope that this entire conversation will be seen as following through on our value of improvement through caring criticism. MICA is inherently a learning institution, one that is at its best when individuals at all levels contribute to the difficult conversations.
The full SHVAC report, at 23 pages with an additional 22 pages of supporting documents, provided us with a wide range of thoughtful recommendations. Many of those will require more time and input to ensure a deliberate action plan. To provide a meaningful response at this time, however, we will take the five items listed in the Executive Summary of Recommendations one-by-one:
1. Create a culture in which training is supported and valued.
We agree that in an environment such as ours valuing ongoing training and education is critical. MICA has mandated training for staff on harassment prevention for several years. Within the last six months MICA has begun requiring training for all staff including student staff on reporting sexual misconduct, and faculty will also be required moving forward to receive both harassment prevention and reporting training.
To go further, the College has also begun offering additional training for faculty and staff on supporting survivors of sexual harassment or violence. The Department of Campus Safety will also be completing a comprehensive sensitivity training during the upcoming fall semester. We will continue to explore other areas where the best ideas for campus education and training can be brought to MICA, and we welcome continued input from the community.
2. Conduct a climate survey, as suggested in the "Not Alone" report published by the White House.
In the time since SHVAC completed their report the State of Maryland has required all schools to complete a climate survey by March 2016. The College agrees that this is a valuable tool in understanding the realities of the campus community and is already actively engaged with other area institutions on the development of a quality instrument.
3. Increase visibility of the Title IX officers, and of relevant discussions on campus, with a dedicated website and passive programming.
Concurrent with this letter we are announcing the launch of a new Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response site within the mica.edu domain. We believe that this is a stronger and more comprehensive experience bringing together information about policy, on- and off-campus resources, and other helpful information. Complete information about MICA's Title IX officers, who they are, and what their role is will be included. While this site has been in development since December we do not consider it final - nothing on the web truly ever is - and we welcome continued community input on what would make it more useful. There is a link at the bottom of each page to provide direct feedback.
Included on this site is the full SHVAC report. We encourage all members of our community to review that document. A MICA log-in is required to access the report.
4. Improve reporting policies and structures & increase response time to sexual violence complaints.
The College began work on considering and implementing new reporting and adjudication procedures during the 2014-2015 academic year, but made a conscious decision to put those efforts on hold while SHVAC finished their work. It was important to make sure that any recommendations SHVAC made were fully considered. Now that the report is in hand, these efforts can move forward. To this end MICA is committing to a new investigation and adjudication process for reports of sexual misconduct by the start of the spring 2016 semester. Our goal will be to provide a thorough, efficient, and reliable process for faculty, staff, and students that is effective and equitable and addresses the effects of the harassment or violence for the reporting party and the community.
It is important to note that SHVAC does not feel it is possible to weigh in on the issue of whether or not those found responsible for acts of sexual violence should be automatically expelled or terminated until the process related to reporting and adjudication of such complaints is improved. This is the issue raised by the student Campus Advocates, Survivors and Allies (CASA) group at the end of this past spring semester.
5. Reconsider MICA's counseling services, and the provision of safe discussion spaces, to match the scope and tenor of demand.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, and prior to the SHVAC report, MICA committed resources specifically to this area for the upcoming year and beyond. We are pleased to inform you that beginning this fall Student Counseling will be staffed by three full-time professional therapists. This staffing model change, from a reliance on part time counselors to full time, will create up to 10 additional clinical or educational hours each week. Additionally, the number of available hours for psychiatric services will fully double from AY '15 to AY '16.
Furthermore, Student Counseling is exploring with area partners possibilities for offering group sessions and/or more visible off-campus supportive resources. The College is also committed to providing additional training to our in-house counselors around topics such as trauma, sexual violence, and survivor support and is actively working to identify those opportunities for MICA's counseling team.
In their conclusion SHVAC recommends the creation of a "more permanent committee...to provide guidance and oversight" on how the College moves forward. We agree whole-heartedly with this recommendation and will launch this group in the early fall. Part of the role we envision for this committee is continuing to provide guidance on many of the issues SHVAC addressed, which would include among other things the consideration of the CASA petition. It is also recommended that the original SHVAC members be reconvened at the midpoint of this coming year to review MICA's progress. We also commit to that action.
We share the "unbridled optimism" expressed in the report for MICA's ability to move-forward, grow, improve, and adapt. MICA's core values require nothing less. For those who wish to participate actively in an ongoing dialogue, we encourage you to join us on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm in Leake Lecture Hall for a forum around the report, MICA's community values, and how we move forward together. We look forward to seeing you there.
Associate Vice President for Human Resources
Title IX Coordinator
Michael Z Patterson
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Deputy Title IX Coordinator