Hesston College announced that its Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Safety Task Force has been assembled and will have its first meeting and begin its work in December.
The task force, which is independent of board and administrative control or oversight, is being led by facilitator Dr. Jeanette Harder, a social work professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and a researcher, author and trainer in violence prevention. She is also the co-founder and board president for Dove’s Nest, a faith-based organization whose mission is to keep children and youth safe in faith communities. Other members of the task force include three members at arms’ length from Hesston College, and three Hesston College faculty or staff members.
“I am pleased to play a part in making Hesston College a safer campus for all,” said Dr. Harder. “Campus leaders have been very forthcoming with needed information for this work, and I anticipate a positive and healthy process.”
The task force’s responsibilities as outlined in the group’s purpose statement is to “conduct an independent objective assessment upon which to make recommendations to Hesston College’s Administrative Council and Board of Directors for policies and procedures that, when implemented, will create a healthy culture of interpersonal safety at Hesston College.”
Hesston College’s work toward establishing an outside task force for work with sexual misconduct policies and procedures began in April 2016 with discussions on the need to assess strengths and areas for growth. In May, the Hesston College Board of Directors authorized the establishment of the task force and college administrators and board members began conversations with organizations and individuals that could provide insight and assistance to the work at hand.
Assessments will include conducting a review of Hesston College history, policies, and past and current practices, examining other institutions’ work in this area, opening a safe and confidential path for hearing stories and ensuring access to services for those in need.
In addition to the task force, safehope will operate as a separate, safe, confidential and professional group to listen and respond to victims who may come forward during the process. Safehope is a local advocacy and assistant organization for sexual assault victims in Harvey, McPherson and Marion counties of Kansas.
Hesston College has partnered with safehope for a little more than a year in providing a 24-hour crisis hotline, individual counseling, support, information and referrals. Safehope staff hold office hours on campus one day per week.
The task force will meet with faculty, staff and students in spring 2017 as part of the collection and assessment period. The task force anticipates making its final recommendations to Hesston College by October 2017.
Questions or feedback for the task force may be directed to Dr. Harder at HesstonCollegeTaskForce@gmail.com. Safehope can be contacted to hear and respond to victims at 316-283-0350.