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Spelman College

President's Letter to the Community

Title IX Update

February 5, 2016

Dear Spelman Community,

As we all settle into the spring semester, I write to bring you up to date on recent developments related to Title IX. Last semester, you may recall that, as the new president of Spelman College, I invited the president of Morehouse College to co-host a well-attended summit in Sisters Chapel to signal the importance of the issue. After the summit, my office introduced to the Spelman community a Title IX action plan. The intent of the action plan is to strengthen and improve all aspects of Title IX compliance on our campus. We are committed to making sure that, when it comes to Title IX compliance, Spelman is exemplary.

As the school undertook steps to improve the culture and climate of the campus, we received news that underscored the urgency of these matters. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights notified Spelman of a Title IX complaint regarding a past incident. That complaint was followed by the circulation on social media of an article in Buzzfeed that brought to our attention other past incidents. The women who filed those complaints exhibited courage and fearlessness. At the same time, the circumstances that occasioned those complaints are unacceptable.

With the full commitment of the Board of Trustees, we continue to do the work needed to construct a model campus culture. I am pleased to report that we are making progress on the Title IX action plan. We’ve established a faculty advisory committee; inaugurated the first of several searches for Title IX staff—including a new dean of students and Title IX director; solicited student input on mounting a web-based gallery of communication videos designed to educate Spelman students on their Title IX rights, protections and support services; and hired a student intern in the Title IX office to assist with gathering educational materials for future posting. As well, Spelman’s Leadership Council, Staff Council and Faculty Council were solicited for their insights on making the campus supportive to Title IX compliance. Until the Title IX director position is filled, Secretary of the College Terri Harris Reed, Ph.D., will take on those responsibilities, drawing from her previous leadership experience in Title IX at other institutions.

I take this opportunity to thank the members of the faculty who have accepted the president’s invitation to serve. The Faculty Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Beverly Guy Sheftall, Ph.D., C’66, and Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., C’78.  Other members include Professors Aku Kadogo, Nami Kim, Ph.D., Kathleen Phillips Lewis, Ph.D., and Angelino Viceisza, Ph.D. Early projects will include reviewing a climate survey instrument and exploring the idea of identifying and training designated advisors and allies who would be available across campus to support students who experience sexual assault, gender-based discrimination, and/or who may be seeking a safe space for guidance and support around matters specific to our LBGTQ community.

Next Steps

In the coming months, in addition to the steps outlined above, we are planning the following:

  • We are investigating Title IX training using multi-faceted and multi-modal techniques to better equip our community to prevent and respond to incidents.
  • We are assessing partnerships with local not-for-profits that can expand our capacity to provide services and support: local rape crises centers and other social and therapeutic services. By using the instrument of Memoranda of Understanding, recommended as a best practice by the Not Alone report produced by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, we will be able to expand support services to the campus. 
  • AUC presidents and campuses are exploring joint fact-finding processes and examining each others’ adjudication processes to ensure greater consistency and transparency in our incidence response, training, grievance, and adjudication processes.

    I share my thanks to everyone who has responded to our call to action. As I stated during the Sisters Chapel summit, the real work of creating an exemplary campus is just beginning.  It’s heartening to experience the will and commitment from every sector of the Spelman community as we continue to undertake that work.


    Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.