Senate holds town hall with Deans

BY MELISSA JOHNSON ’20

Senate hosted the second town hall meeting of the year on Tuesday, Oct. 23, attended by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Jon Western and Associate Dean of Faculty Dorothy Mosby. Following the “Support MHC Survivors” Rally on Skinner Green earlier that day, Western and Mosby responded to several questions about the faculty response to sexual assault allegations against a Mount Holyoke professor.

Western remarked on the #MeToo movement on campus early on in the meeting. “I know this is a very difficult time in our community,” he said, “and I appreciate the work you are all doing as a community to hold this college accountable.”

Chair of Orgs Zoe Brown ’21 moderated the discussion, reading questions from students through a Google form. Several of the questions focused on what the process for reporting and adjudicating sexual assault allegations at the faculty level, and whether the College is doing enough protect students.

Western acknowledged that since these allegations have surfaced, there has been a clear distrust between faculty and students, and he expressed distress over the matter. He went on to explain the College’s investigation process.

“We rely on external resources to help us with these Title IX cases […] We use a very reputable law firm based outside of Boston,” said Western. The law firm mentioned was Sanghavi Law Office, LLC.

Western went on to explain that the law firm collects information through interviews with various involved parties and investigation of any physical evidence. Findings are then presented to the College.

As more specific questions were asked, Western repeated several times throughout the meeting that he could not speak on specifics about any case protected under Title IX. “The institution needs to think deep and hard about where we’ve been in all forms of bias, discrimination and misconduct,” he said. “This is a reflection point for the institution.”

In addition to the current investigation, students also posed questions to Western and Mosby about how the College is working to make faculty at Mount Holyoke more diverse and better-educated about diversity issues.

“We’ve had workshops through our teaching and learning initiative, and this has also been brought up during our advising retreats,” said Mosby.

She went on to explain that there is a faculty retreat for teaching and advising annually during the winter recess where many diversity topics are discussed. Mosby also said that she is very open to collaborating with students to help seasoned faculty learn more about the diversity issues at hand in the classroom.

“For some faculty, this is something that needs to be said early and often, that we’re a gender-inclusive community,” said Mosby.

Mosby also spoke about her role working with faculty hiring committees and emphasized the importance of a diverse faculty, especially since the student community is so diverse.

“We have a required statement, for all candidates, which is a Diversity Mentorship Statement,” said Mosby. “We want all new professors to be aware of the understanding that they’re coming to teach at a diverse institution.”

The town hall meeting closed with a student asking how each of the deans personally would like to see change within our administration and within the College’s culture.

Western called on his experience working outside the College on human rights issues at the U.S. State Department, saying, “Navigating across differences is sometimes hard. For me, it’s about the effort and process and getting to the point where we’re practicing fundamental human rights.”

Mosby said, “Just speaking for myself, I would like to see us get to a place where we can really talk to one another, and really work from a frame of restorative justice and reconciliation.” She added, “We need to find a way to move away from harm and work towards healing. It takes a lot of work and effort, but results are very special.”

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