October 23, 2017
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,
In 2006, Tarana Burke understood the power of the phrase “me too,” and what she calls “empowerment through empathy,” and founded a movement to help women and girls — especially women and girls of color — who had survived sexual violence. A week ago, Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to encourage women to give voice to their experiences of sexual harassment and used the same words, “MeToo,” seeking “to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” and to build solidarity among women. Tarana Burke’s work remains critical to survivors, and we must not let the focus on the celebrity status of the more recent campaign eclipse that; nor can we fail to acknowledge the scale of the problem and the power and pain of the stories that have been shared this week.
The #MeToo movement is ending the silence — if not the distress and sense of shame — of millions of individuals, most of them women, who have been subjected to the predation of a person or persons, the majority of them men, who were often older and more powerful. Those who have been fearful of speaking out are now doing so, empowered by time, and by a space, often in social media, to give specific voice to their experiences. Still, there are others who feel unable to do so, or do not wish to share their stories publicly. If the stories of others and the media focus on this issue are triggering memories of your own experiences or causing you distress, we encourage you to seek help.
At Mount Holyoke College, we take the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff very seriously. College policies prohibit gender and sex-based discrimination and harassment of any kind, including sexual misconduct. Sexual violence and harassment disproportionately affect women and gender minorities, and our policies offer protections, rights, and processes by which we stand.
#MeToo is bringing to light allegations of improper conduct that occurred in the recent or distant past. Mount Holyoke will take very seriously any information we receive about events involving current students, faculty or staff, and commits to conducting an appropriate investigation of them, with all due sensitivity and a consideration for fairness, and to taking prompt and appropriate remedial action. While there are obvious challenges to investigating allegations of events that occurred in the more distant past, Mount Holyoke will also conduct an inquiry into such allegations and take appropriate action.
The College is required under Title IX to prevent and address sexual discrimination, which includes gender-based and sexual misconduct against students, faculty, and staff, whether perpetrated by peers or by employees of the institution. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for investigating all forms of gender-based and sexual misconduct. You can read more about Mount Holyoke’s policies and procedures under Title IX here.
For all members of the Mount Holyoke community, including our 37,000 alumnae, if you have a question, concern or complaint related to gender-based or sexual discrimination or misconduct, we urge you to contact our Title IX Coordinator, Lenore Reilly (email@example.com).