April 26, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
This week completes a particularly difficult Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I believe many of us have spent time reflecting on its meaning, and on how we can continue to move forward in support of all survivors of sexual violence. As one of four sisters and as the mother of three daughters, I have always carried a special concern for the ways girls and women are objectified and degraded in our culture—and I have worked, both personally and professionally, to combat misogynistic words and actions.
Given the values we espouse in the tri-campus community, I was shocked by the behaviors and language exposed in an April 12 Observer article about Zahm Hall, and I know many in our community were shaken to the core by that reporting. For these reasons, I raised the issue of sexual violence at our Faculty-Staff Town Hall last week: to ensure that everyone was aware of the impact those hateful words must be having on Saint Mary’s students, and to encourage people to speak about these matters in their classes and in other contexts where they interact with students.
Students, my heart broke for you and for all of us when I read that Observer piece, and I applauded VP Gloria Jenkins’ letter to you in the aftermath. Then, I was heartened as I marched in solidarity with you on April 14. Indeed, the Take Back the Night vigil highlighted the power of solidarity and allowed all of us to imagine what might happen if we showed up and stood up for each other every day. If we really listened to each other’s stories. If we started by believing survivors. Starting next year, I want Saint Mary’s—the only women’s college in Indiana—to host a major symposium dedicated to combating sexual violence during the month of April.
Please know that I am fully committed to providing a safe environment for all members of this community, beginning with the provisions of Title IX, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal financial aid. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. Our own Title IX leaders can answer any questions or concerns you may have.
I want to announce here our new Title IX leadership team:
Nicole Hundt, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Student Involvement, has graciously agreed to lead these efforts as our Title IX Coordinator. She will be supported by several skilled Deputy Coordinators, including:
- Nadia Ewing, Director of Academic Advising and Registrar
- Dr. James Gillespie, Department of Business & Economics
- Adriana Petty, Director of International Students and Multicultural Services
- Kris Urschel, Director of Human Resources
- Jennifer Wright, Associate Director, Disabilities Resource Office
In addition, you have the support of several campus groups, including BAVO. I would also recommend taking part in Green Dot training—held several times a year—to educate yourself on how to eliminate sexual violence from our society and be an advocate for survivors.
Finally, each year, the last Wednesday of April is designated as Denim Day, a project of the organization, Peace Over Violence. I encourage you to join me, along with millions of others around the world, in wearing denim this Wednesday. It is a small, symbolic way we can express solidarity with survivors and convey that we will do all we can to protect each other.
As your President, I will always stand with you.
In peace and unity,
Katie Conboy, Ph.D.