During the fall of 2022, Hesston College launched a comprehensive review of campus policies and practices related to student safety and Title IX in response to student-voiced concerns. This review was conducted by outside firm Cozen O’Connor’s Institutional Response Group, a team of attorneys with extensive experience investigating sexual and gender-based harassment and violence and building effective campus policies and programs. Their findings were released on April 14, 2023. The full report is available below, along with other resources and communications leading up to the report’s release.
President Manickam shares about the report in Formation, April 14, 2023
Any questions not covered within the above FAQs can be sent to email@example.com. This email address is NOT for reports of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. See our Title IX Reporting page for reporting details and confidential resources.
April 14, 2023 Message from President Joseph A. Manickam and Board Chair Ken G Kabira to Hesston College Community
Dear Hesston College community,
We are writing to provide you with Cozen O’Connor’s complete report on their external review of the college’s policies, procedures and practices related to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. It is attached below and available on our website.
We want to share with you, as two people who love Hesston College and believe in its mission, that we found reading this report and its descriptions of how we have failed our students painful, humbling and saddening. To our students who were impacted by the college’s failures, we extend our own and the college’s most sincere apologies. We commit to doing all that we can to earn back your trust in the college.
This report provides a level of candor and clarity that is critical to understanding the depth and breadth of the issues we must confront. Its findings must serve as a seminal point of change at our college. In its detailed accounting of Hesston’s Title IX practices, this report makes clear how much more work the college must do to live up to its values and our commitment to our students.
The report demonstrates that the college has failed to consistently carry out its Title IX policies and procedures, and in so doing, has failed to consistently meet its Title IX obligations to our community. In many aspects of our response to Title IX reports, the college has been insensitive to the experiences and needs of our students, making traumatic experiences worse. That is both heartbreaking and beyond unacceptable. Hesston must be better than this.
This report draws upon the experience of Cozen O’Connor’s Institutional Response Group with colleges and universities across the country. It reflects the candor and integrity we sought in engaging them to provide us with a frank and unflinching assessment of the college’s Title IX work. The findings detailed in the report resulted from Cozen O’Connor’s extensive research into Hesston College’s Title IX policies, procedures and practices, most notably through their conversations since last fall with students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and other stakeholders; and their review of extensive related documentation, including all 35 Title IX reports filed over the past five years.
We are grateful to everyone who spoke with the Cozen O’Connor team for having the courage and care to do so. Your participation and engagement were vital to the identification and understanding of the issues specified in the report and to helping us chart a course forward.
The steps the college must take to change the way it applies Title IX, investigates complaints and supports those who report sexual misconduct are numerous and extensive. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we commit the college to taking these steps without reservation. In doing so, Hesston will be guided by the comprehensive and meaningful recommendations for change that this report provides at its conclusion. We will also continue to consult the demands submitted by students in November. We have made progress on many of these demands since that time and will continue to consult them as we work to implement the findings of the Cozen O’Connor report.
The issues that the college must address and correct include:
- We must increase the resources invested in training and supporting administrators, staff and faculty to prevent sexual harassment and assault; to meet the full requirements of Title IX reporting and resolution obligations; and to support survivors with compassion.
- We must scrutinize all processes and practices used in receiving, reviewing, investigating and adjudicating Title IX reports and complaints and in following up with and supporting those affected by related decisions.
- While the principle and practice of restorative justice resolution are fundamental to many aspects of our campus life, we must recognize that it may only be used to address matters of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence when both parties voluntarily agree to do so after being fully informed of all procedural and resolution options. When used in such matters, there must be a consistent, clear and well-guided process led by individuals with thorough training in restorative justice practice in the context of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence.
The college will invest the time, resources and effort necessary to implement these and other aspects of the report’s recommendations. As first steps toward doing so, we are taking the following actions immediately:
- We will work with Cozen O’Connor to initiate prompt restorative outreach to those affected by the college’s insufficient actions in response to their reports.
- We will provide educational and professional development programming for all senior leaders to ensure they have the necessary expertise in Title IX and related matters.
- We will ensure that all campus administrators, faculty and staff who are or may be involved in the response to a report have sufficient training and support to ensure that these types of failures cannot occur at Hesston again.
- We will immediately initiate a search for an external partner firm with expertise in Title IX institutional change to help prioritize the Cozen O’Connor recommendations, build a plan of action and track our implementation to ensure it is prompt, effective and meaningful.
- With the above partner, as a means of public accountability, we will keep the Hesston College community regularly informed on our Title IX efforts and provide opportunities to gather related feedback.
- We will identify and designate additional funding to support these efforts.
We have created a webpage that includes the report, related background information and resources for reporting incidents of sexual misconduct. We will be writing again before the end of the semester with further updates as we process the full magnitude of the report and its implications and take steps to enact a comprehensive action plan for change. We have also created a dedicated email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to gather questions, comments, concerns and other feedback that you or anyone in the Hesston community may wish to share with college administrators implementing the above actions.
We also understand that after reading this report, individuals may wish to report their own experiences. We encourage you to do so. Reports of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence can be made directly to the college’s current Title IX Coordinator, Whitney Douglas, at email@example.com or by telephone at 620-327-8342, or on our online reporting form.
As this overview suggests, for some, this report is likely to be difficult to read. Please know that the college’s counseling services, including our campus counselor, Safehope, as well as the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-4673, are available to anyone who may need them.
Thank you to all those who participated in this process and to the students, faculty, staff and alumni who used your voices to demand change. We are grateful to you. Today, we begin anew the work to live up to our college’s ideals and the trust our students place in us.
Joseph A. Manickam
Ken G Kabira
Chair, Board of Directors