News

Letters to Campus Community Address Title IX, Campus Climate

Jackie Cannon ’20

Editor-in-Chief

Over the course of the summer, the College of the Holy Cross community received multiple letters from Rev. Philip L. Boroughs S.J., president, regarding the campus climate, sexual misconduct policy, and the allegations of sexual misconduct against James David Christie, former artist-in-residence and organist at the College. These reports included details of how the college will be working to build an inclusive community and prevent further sexual misconduct. 

These reports served as the culmination of months of research and review by an external law firm and a committee of Holy Cross community members. Several incidents, including the public allegations against Christie and Professor Christopher Dustin of the Philosophy Department and the February sit-in protesting the administration’s response to these Title IX allegations, prompted these reviews. 

July 9: Students received a message from Fr. Boroughs, detailing the findings of the investigation against Christie. He was found responsible for violating the college’s sexual misconduct and harassment policy on multiple accounts. He will face multiple sanctions, including having all awards and honors bestowed by the College revoked and not being permitted on any Holy Cross property. 

July 31: Fr. Boroughs sent a letter that informed the campus community that Phil Catanzano of Holland & Knight LLP, who had been hired to review the campus culture, structures and procedures, had completed his review and summarized his findings in a 14-page report. Catanzano stated that he interviewed approximately 68 people, consisting of current and former students and employees. 

In this letter, Boroughs wrote that Catanzano’s report was not intended to address specific concerns, but rather that “his goal was to determine whether the specific concerns were indicative of broader cultural or procedural deficiencies and to report on how those can be improved toward preventing future misconduct.”

However, Catanzano stated in the introduction of his report that “I was not able to provide specific feedback on the larger campus culture because too few current students chose to meet with me, despite several requests by Fr. Boroughs and other directed efforts on campus to ask for their participation over the course of the last ten months.” Therefore, his report primarily focused on culture surrounding sexual misconduct reporting, not the campus culture as a whole. 

Notably, Boroughs stated that, from the day the letter was sent until the end of this calendar year, there will be no failure-to-report consequences for anyone who brings forward a past allegation of sexual assault to the Title IX office. This temporary policy is in place to address concerns that individuals may face repercussions if they come forward with prior reports of sexual misconduct that they failed to report. 

August 7: A message to Holy Cross students outlined the conclusions reached by the Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Committee. The committee was composed of students, staff, and faculty, and worked with Daryl Lapp of Locke Lord LLP to review the College’s Title IX and submit suggestions for improving the policy to address students’ concerns while remaining within the necessary legal parameters. 

As Fr. Boroughs summarized, many of the committee’s recommendations consisted of clarifying or expanding on the language in specific sections of the policy, and clarifying how certain processes are carried out. The College administration will also be looking into the committee’s suggestion to establish a student Title IX advisory board, although this idea may pose legal and privacy challenges. Holy Cross administration was also tasked with creating a visual representation of the Title IX process and update the “Title IX Q&A” on the Campus Climate website. 

In addition to conducting the in-depth search for a new director of the Title IX office after the departure of Tracy Kennedy last spring, Holy Cross also hired Jody Shipper of Grand River Solutions, a renowned Title IX expert, to recommend steps to improve the structure and resources of the Title IX office.

August 23: In his final summer message to campus, Fr. Boroughs addressed the many reports of possible sexual misconduct that had been brought to the Title IX office over the past year. He stated, “The emotional and physical safety of our students is of paramount concern and no student should be subject to harassment or other sexual misconduct by faculty or staff whose job it is to educate, mentor and facilitate the growth and development of our students.”

This message also informs the campus community that Holy Cross will hire an external investigator for older allegations brought forward against former faculty or staff members that have not previously been investigated. Fr. Boroughs also reiterated the temporary amnesty policy mentioned in his Jul. 31 letter for mandated reporters who bring forth prior reports of misconduct. 

Despite the complex nature of the issues in these reports, the consensus that Fr. Borough repeatedly emphasized is that more work remains to be done. Fr. Boroughs concluded his Jul. 13 letter by stating, “I remain hopeful that as a community we will recognize our common ground and our common stake in Holy Cross and its mission, raise issues respectfully, and work together to find solutions to the challenges that confront us. I hope you will all join me in this work.”

The Spire will continue to report on ongoing campus issues relating to Title IX policies and practices in an effort to increase transparency while  fostering productive communication between students, the administration, faculty, and staff. 

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