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Hobart and William Smith Colleges respond to NY Times sexual assault article

Hobart_and_William_Smith_Colleges_in_Geneva_0.jpg
Photo from Hobart and William Smith Colleges Facebook page
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Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, in Central New York responded to a complaint of alleged sexual assault filed by a student in response to a New York Times article dated July 12, 2014.

President of the colleges, Mark D. Gearan, issued a letter to the community. The colleges are on a national list of schools under federal investigation for possible violations of how schools handle the reporting of sexual violence and sexual harassment complaints.

An investigation opened May 1, 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

In New York State, four schools were named in the federal investigation, including Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Also under investigation are SUNY at Binghamton, Sarah Lawrence College and CUNY Hunter College.

The recent New York Times article profiled a student identified only as “Anna” who has filed a complaint of alleged sexual assault on the Hobart William Smith campus that she says occurred last September when she arrived as a freshman.  The young woman accuses   football players of raping her.

The article says points to the fact that she reported the alleged assault to the school which in turn conducted its own investigation and hearing, clearing the football players accused

The colleges responded to the article, saying it “disagree with the reporter’s interpretation of events and his portrayal of the Colleges, its students and its processes.”   

The statement says the colleges “cooperated fully with the newspaper and its reporter.”

“Senior members of the administration met twice with him to fully explain our procedures and corresponded with him on multiple occasions. These responses were largely ignored. The result is a story that unfairly portrays the Colleges and belittles the urgency and seriousness with which we address reported violations of our community standards.”  

In a letter issued to the community, the colleges’ president stated the Times article was “difficult” to read.

“And for any student to be left with this perspective is disheartening. It is clear to me that even though we believe we handled the circumstances fairly and within the constraints of the law, and that we made decisions based on the evidence, there is no sense of satisfaction other than the knowledge that we treated everyone with compassion, kindness and respect. Our primary concern is to provide the student with the opportunities and support she needs to have a successful experience when she returns to our campus this fall,” said Gearan.

The president also said the schools encourage students who report sexual misconduct to "speak with the Geneva Police Department.”

Gearan said they “appreciate the concerns and outrage of those reading this article regarding our system, processes and approaches.” But noted the complexity of the “issues facing every college and university.”    

Hobart and William Colleges created a website to include what it says was “information" that was provided to the Times.

WBFO News requested a recorded interview with President Gearan, but it was decline. However, we received the following response from the school’s Communications director:

“Dear Eileen,

Thank you for your e-mail. At this time, we have set up a webpage that we are using to convey our response.

The link below takes you to the webpage that has more information about the New York Times article and the letter that President Mark D. Gearan sent to all alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students yesterday.

http://www.hws.edu/about/nytimes/

Please visit the page and let me know if you have any questions.

Best,

Mary

Mary K. LeClair

Director of Communications

Hobart and William Smith Colleges”

Horbert and William Smith is a two-college system, where men attend Hobart and women attend William Smith. But according to the schools Webpage, the 2,272 undergraduate students “share the same campus, faculty, administration and curriculum.”