In a message sent to all members of the University community today, Brown University President Christina Paxson addressed the issue of sexual assault on campuses and described the University’s ongoing efforts at prevention, education, and policy review. The text of the President’s message follows here.
Dear Members of the Brown Community,
As you are probably aware, the problem of sexual assault on campuses has received significant attention in recent years, and all universities are working to address and manage the many complex issues that arise in these situations. Above all, we have an absolute obligation to protect victims while also providing due process for the accused.
This past week, a Brown University student conducted a press conference to discuss how charges of sexual assault she brought against another student were handled by the University. Her account raised questions about the adequacy of our processes for evaluating charges of sexual assault, and about the severity of sanctions for students who are found responsible for sexual misconduct under Brown’s Code of Student Conduct.
To be clear, sexual assault at Brown is not tolerated. Every student at Brown has the right to feel safe from the threat of sexual violence. Students who report being the victims of sexual misconduct receive substantial support from deans, counselors, or advocates. In cases where a crime may have been committed, the student is counseled about options for filing a criminal complaint. Students may also choose to bring charges under the University’s Student Code of Conduct. When this happens, it is incumbent on us to ensure that our procedures for handling cases are fair and sensitive, and that our decisions protect the welfare of our entire community.
We are limited by law in what we are permitted to say about the circumstances of any specific case. However, with regard to the case that has been widely discussed this past week, you should know that the student accused of the assault has decided not to petition the University for readmission to Brown for next fall.
We are committed to taking aggressive steps to ensure that our campus is safe for everyone and as part of that, policies and procedures designed to keep our campus safe must be open to continuous review. Such a review was already planned for the coming academic year. We are accelerating that review and it will include significant input from students.
While appropriately addressing incidents is our responsibility, it is also vital as a community that we do everything possible to prevent violence in the first place. Brown has a number of programs that focus on prevention, including the Sexual Assault Peer Education Program. We have also been strengthening sexual assault education, through new hiring and program development. And because drug and alcohol abuse is a common factor in many of these cases, we are doing what we can to educate students about this problem. We intend to use the results of a recent student survey on alcohol to create more finely targeted programs aimed at reducing high-risk drinking on campus, and we plan to conduct additional surveys to assess campus climate and safety in the fall.
With concerted efforts to improve prevention of sexual violence, and policies that reflect no tolerance for assault, we will ensure that Brown’s campus is welcoming, safe and secure for every member of our wonderful community.
Christina H. Paxson