The following email was sent to the campus community on Thursday, March 12.

Dear all ---

During my time as president, I’ve communicated regularly with the Longwood community about an issue that has been very much in the news and constantly on my mind – Title IX, campus sexual violence and our shared efforts to ensure we have a campus climate that is healthy, safe and fair. As I’ve said before, the issue is fundamentally a matter of civil rights – of ensuring that no student’s right to an education is derailed by gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence, and that all students are treated fairly.

I write again today for two reasons. First, I want to remind everyone on campus of the policies and procedures that guide our response to any allegations of sexual misconduct. Last month, in a pattern of continual review and attention, the executive committee of the Board of Visitors approved several consensus clarifications to the university sexual misconduct policy, on the recommendation together of faculty and counsel. Longwood has put substantial time, energy and resources into this system so that it provides the resources and support victims need, holds those found responsible accountable, and ensures due process. Our Title IX coordinator, Jen Fraley, deserves particular praise. 

The second reason I write today is that I know recent weeks have seen substantial discussion on social media and elsewhere within the Longwood community about this important and complex issue.  Student privacy laws prevent Longwood from discussing individual cases, even to directly address misinformation that may be circulating. However, the national discussion about Title IX and the discussion here at Longwood rightly drive intense feelings and views. With that in mind, I am sharing in Q&A format a discussion of our policies in general, and more importantly the values behind them.

My best, as always,

President Reveley


Q: What happens when sexual misconduct is observed or reported at Longwood?

A: The process, along with the rights of both a complainant and respondent, are described in detail in our sexual misconduct policy. Investigations and hearings are conducted by faculty and staff who have undergone substantial training in areas such as trauma-informed care. The system’s purpose is to investigate and act promptly to ensure no student who is subjected to sexual misconduct has his or her educational progress derailed as a result. Our initial focus is providing whatever resources are required by the victim, such as counseling, medical care, assistance making a police report or gaining a protective order, and academic and housing accommodation to ensure physical and emotional safety.

Q: What type of behavior is covered by the sexual misconduct policy?

A: While it is common to equate Title IX with sexual assault, the policy covers a broad range of behaviors. The spectrum includes non-physical offenses ranging from sexual discrimination to harassment, as well as offenses involving physical contact ranging from unwanted touching to, most seriously, sexual assault. Some of these behaviors would not be considered criminal in the legal system, some would be considered misdemeanors (in the category of reckless driving) and others such as sexual assault would be considered felonies.

Q: How are students found responsible through this process held accountable?

A: Expulsion is the recommended sanction in any case of coerced sexual intercourse (e.g. rape, attempted rape, sodomy or other acts of misconduct), or in any case where the victim is incapable of consent.

Lesser infractions, such as unwanted touching and unwelcome sexual propositions, carry recommended sanctions including disciplinary suspension and disciplinary probation. Sanctioning is subject to appeal through the Title IX process. Detailed recommended sanctioning guidelines can be found beginning on page 15 of the Student Handbook.

Q: Does Longwood simply handle these cases "in house" so they do not end up going to the police?

A: Absolutely not – this is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding about this process. Longwood’s Title IX office works closely with police in any instance where there is potential criminal activity (this includes Longwood’s own police, who are sworn officers of the Commonwealth, and others such as town police and state police). Whenever there is any potential threat to campus, we notify law enforcement. When we receive a report of sexual assault, we ensure those reporting are aware of all their options, which include involving law enforcement to pursue a criminal case.

Q: So why doesn’t Longwood just let law enforcement handle serious cases such as sexual assault?

A: Federal law does not allow that, nor would it be the right thing to do. First, some behaviors covered in our policy such as discrimination and harassment are not typically illegal, but we need a system in place to address them. In cases of sexual assault, some victims do not wish to pursue a case through the criminal justice system. It is their preference the matter be dealt with on campus. In other cases, prosecutors themselves may not act, so we must.

Criminal courts have a higher standard of proof to meet than Longwood’s disciplinary system, and it is not uncommon for prosecutors to decline to pursue cases in which they are not confident they can secure a conviction. Even if law enforcement does act, the process can take months or years. We cooperate with the criminal justice system but cannot entirely "outsource" our student conduct system to it – that would take too long, leave too many unacceptable behaviors unpunished, and fail to address the educational needs of all participants.

That is why the university’s process moves forward regardless of law enforcement’s response, and moves forward promptly. One possible outcome is for a student to be sanctioned within the university system and meet all of his or her obligations to Longwood before a criminal case even goes to court, let alone makes its way through appeal.

Q: If a student is arrested and/or convicted of a crime, how does that affect his or her standing at Longwood?

A: If we are notified a student has been charged with a criminal offense, and we are not yet aware of the matter, it will also be referred into the student misconduct system to be investigated and adjudicated. Regardless of how any criminal case proceeds, we will move forward based on behaviors that come to our attention, and hold students accountable as appropriate under our policies and procedures. 

Q: What are the values that underlie our treatment of students accused of misconduct?

A: Unless and until they are found responsible for an offense of sufficient severity to be expelled from our community, students accused of misconduct remain our student throughout this process, entitled to fundamental due process and fairness.

The student handbook states that a goal of student discipline process is "where possible, to allow a student found responsible for a violation the opportunity to reflect on his/her behavior and its impact on the community, and redirect his/her behavior in the future." Once students have met their obligations, we work to re-integrate them in the community, both academically and outside the classroom through extra-curricular activities. We do so because that offers them the best chance to succeed and move forward.

Another core value is equitable treatment: The procedures, sanctions, and values that are applied to the case of one student will apply to any other student.

Q: What about intercollegiate athletics?

A: Within the student misconduct system, student-athletes are treated identically to any other student. The athletic department plays no role in that process and any sanctioning it may impose.  

Separately, any student-athlete who is arrested on any felony charge is automatically suspended from his or her team until the charge is dropped, dismissed or otherwise resolved.

In the case of a misdemeanor charge, the appropriate sanction in terms of team participation is determined by the athletic director, working in consultation with the coach and others, and weighing both the seriousness of the offense and  the response of the student involved. Again, this process does not wait for a case to proceed in court – it begins immediately, and may play itself before the legal process is even fully underway.

Wearing the Longwood uniform is a privilege, not a right, and student-athletes are appropriately held to a high bar. However, we hold toward them the same responsibilities for fairness, and aspirations for growth and personal development, as we do for any other student.

Q: Do these policies best represent Longwood’s values?

A: Issues of gender-based and sexual violence are extraordinarily difficult, and can have deep and lasting effects on all involved. I believe the policies and procedures we have in place provide strong guidance for our community. I also have the highest degree of faith in the integrity and judgment of the Longwood educators who work most directly on these issues, and who every day are called upon to make tough calls balancing our educational goals for all students as well as our obligations to them and to the law.

Like any policies, but especially in this complex and legally evolving area, these matters should be periodically and thoughtfully reviewed to determine whether they are the best possible expression of our core values – to develop citizen-leaders, and to ensure every student is treated equally, fairly and with respect.

Meanwhile, we are taking significant steps to address the problem of campus sexual misconduct before it takes place. This year, for the first time, every Longwood student was required to complete Title IX education and training. A new presidential advisory committee on campus climate is reviewing those efforts and our practices to make sure we are doing the best we can.

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