March 17, 2022
Dear campus community,
The recent letter shared by a student about sexual assault has sat heavy with me, as I’m sure it has with you. Sexual assault is horrific; it is particularly horrific when it happens on our campus, disrupting lives and distorting our sense of safety in the place we live, work, and learn.
I’ve met with some of the impacted students in recent days, and with their input, I wanted to now communicate with the broader FLC community about this issue. In conversations, it’s been clear that students feel failed by systems—from Title IX to other elements that perpetuate patterns of structural inequalities. To effectively address sexual assault on campus, we must be cognizant of how students’ personal histories, race, and experience with sexual assault all intersect. We will do better to acknowledge the barriers that students, particularly students of color, face when reporting sexual assault. The staff and faculty at FLC are deeply committed to filling the gaps in this process to meet our students’ needs. Specifically, as a Native-serving institution, we have a special obligation to be more responsive given the larger issues involving Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.
The students I’ve spoken with have made extremely valuable and valid points. As such, we’re taking the following steps to clarify and improve the support our students receive in sexual misconduct cases (see the Title IX action plan attached and pasted below).
I want our entire student body to know that FLC takes student safety and wellness seriously, and that we each have a role and responsibility in creating a safe and secure environment for one another. As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns.
Fort Lewis College
Sexual Violence and Action for Change at FLC
Title IX is a federal law that has evolved over the years to address sexual violence, gender or sexuality-based discrimination, inter-partner violence, and stalking. The intent behind Title IX is to help institutions keep their campuses safe.
As a college that places students at the center of all we do, Fort Lewis College looks to go above and beyond this statute to create an authentically equitable, responsive, and preventative culture through the creation and implementation of a supplemental sexual misconduct policy. In order to shape this policy, we have gathered insights and recommendations from several stakeholders. The resulting plan has been shaped by professional staff, student leaders, and has been specially informed by narratives from those who struggle to navigate this complex system—a system which at times has perpetuated patterns of structural inequalities. To effectively address sexual misconduct on campus, we must be cognizant of how race, socioeconomic levels, and more play roles in these conversations. As a Native American-serving institution, we have a special obligation to be more responsive given the larger issues involving Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives.
The plan for change at FLC provides actionable steps, accessible modalities for feedback, and increased opportunities for meaningful dialogue with our student body and other members of our campus community.
There are currently several areas of action in progress:
- We recently hired a Professional Advocate/Case Manager, Victoria Sanchez.
- Additionally, we are training multiple advocates around campus, so students have options for additional resources.
- We hired an external Investigator to help ensure an unbiased response.
- We hired a Deputy Coordinator to help expedite informal cases.
- We are developing a Title IX Peer Support - Liaison program with student leaders who provide Sexual Assault Education to campus.
- We are updating the Title IX website and will begin sending semesterly newsletters.
- We have implemented opportunities for feedback from students who have gone through the Title IX process, so we can make improvements.
- We have joined many colleges and universities across the country in advocating the Biden administration to make impactful changes to Title IX that better support students.
Additional action items guided by student input:
- FLC will waive office visit fees for students who need more than four counseling sessions for mental health support.
- Counseling support will be embedded in other areas of the college. The first example being additional access to a counselor in proximity to the affinity centers. The El Centro conference room will be staffed by a counselor during specific hours, in order to expand safe spaces on campus and foster a sense of security and belonging.
- Give the Professional Advocate and Title IX Coordinators more authority to support students.
- Create secure formal procedures to ensure “no contact” orders are delivered to and followed by respondents in Title IX cases.
- Implement a comprehensive education campaign:
- Targeted workshops, training all FLC employees around sexual assault and trauma-informed care.
- Designate funding from the President’s Impact Fund for speakers who can bring awareness to sexual violence issues (MMIW&R, etc.).
- Require all student employees and on-campus residents to be trained in Title IX policy and sexual assault awareness.
- Have student employees checked through the Student Engagement office to ensure they are not being investigated and have not been charged with sexual assault or violent crimes.
- Create a Sexual Assault Advisory committee with paid student leaders.
If you would like to learn more about Title IX or report a Title IX case, please visit fortlewis.edu/care. We hear you, and we are here to work with you as we become a better institution. Please contact any of us with your questions or ideas.
Kate Suazo (she/her/ella)
Interim Title IX Coordinator
Jeff Dupont (he/him)
Dean of Student Engagement
Dr. Jenni Trujillo (she/her/ella)
Dean, School of Education
Dr. Cheryl Nixon (she/her)
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Dr. Tom Stritikus (he/him)