Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct

To The New School Community, As many brave voices have shown the nation in recent months, the issue of sexual harassment and assault is pervasive. Seemingly no industry or institution, including colleges and universities, is immune from this damaging, deeply troubling behavior. Like many of you, we have been greatly disturbed by reports from around the country. We also know that acts of misconduct have been present in our own New School community, including recent ones that compel us to shine a bright light on our response and responsibility. This is a moment of change not only for our country but for us.

We must and will do more.

Sexual assault and harassment are unlawful and have no place at The New School. They violate everything we stand for, as does any form of abuse of power and discrimination. Each member of this community has the right to pursue intellectual, creative, and professional endeavors free from harm, discrimination, or misconduct. We are building on a special legacy at The New School and have an obligation to reflect honestly on where we are, address any weaknesses in our culture and systems, and design solutions that make this an even stronger and safer place.

Working together, students, faculty, staff, and university leadership have made substantial progress over the past few years to improve education and prevention and make the process to address complaints of sexual misconduct more responsive, comprehensive, and fair. Now, we need to go further, with input and introspection from every part of The New School community.

While there is more work to do in the coming months, we are taking action now on several fronts:

We are conducting a comprehensive review of our policies and practices. The New School’s current policies provide a thorough process for responding to, investigating and acting on complaints of sexual harassment or misconduct. We encourage anyone who experiences sexual misconduct to report it, and we investigate every allegation. While this process is strong, this is a moment to pursue an even higher standard. To this end, we have begun a comprehensive review of our policies, practices, and reporting systems. In the first phase of this work, leaders from the Provost’s Office, HR, Social Justice, and Legal Counsel have outlined key questions and identified aspects of our current policy that warrant fresh consideration. Input from our students, faculty, staff, and academic leadership will be an important part of creating policy revisions following this review.

We have appointed a new leader for Title IX. To ensure that we are moving forward with the strongest support and protections for students, faculty, and staff, we have appointed Rhonnie Jaus – a deeply experienced expert – to serve as Title IX Coordinator in a new role as our Vice President for Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Compliance. Rhonnie has spent her career advocating and pursuing justice for students, women, and children, most recently at Adelphi University, where she has served as Title IX Coordinator and Director of Equity and Compliance, and before that as the Executive Division Chief of the Sex Crimes/Special Victims & Crimes Against Children Division in the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office. She begins her work at The New School on January 2 and will be a key voice in the policy and practice review that is underway.

We are establishing new training and awareness programs. A large part of creating a campus culture where sexual misconduct is not tolerated lies in educating all members of our community to understand sexual misconduct, and how to respond if they encounter it or are made aware of it. Currently, our faculty and staff are required to complete online training to understand Title IX. Feedback indicates that the online training module is not sufficient for an issue so complex, personal, and important. We are working to identify ways to enhance the impact of this training, ensure 100 percent participation from those required to take it, and extend training to students. We are also looking to our educational mission and inviting research, projects, and programming to engage these issues in our classrooms and lecture halls, research centers and institutes, and design studios.

While we are acutely aware that no training or policies are foolproof against sexual harassment and power abuses, we are committed to always ensuring that any members of our community who have experienced misconduct in these areas feel heard, are treated seriously and with care, and are protected from repercussions.

We owe it to every person at The New School to keep this commitment front and center. Together, we will continue to work to ensure that our university is always a space in which intellectual and creative work and careers can flourish without the fear of sexual harassment, abuse, or other unfair and unjust limitations. This is an important moment to make our institution – and our society – safer and more respectful, and we look forward to your suggestions, feedback, and partnership to make this happen.