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Commitment belongs to us all

| Friday, April 12, 2019

I want to begin by thanking you for your continued passion to address sexual assault. I deeply believe that our collective voices create change. I respect the movement to call on us as a college to do better for our students.

Please know that I hear your concerns about filling the position for director of the Belles Against Violence Office. Dialogue has always been an important aspect of a Saint Mary’s education and listening to each other can only bring clarity. I can assure you that nothing means more to me than our students, and their safety and well-being is our number-one priority. In fact, reinstating funding for BAVO was one of the first things I did as president.

While the director of BAVO is a very important position, it is never the work of one person alone that makes us a strong college. This position had been put on hold by my predecessor; we opened up the applications again in February and brought three candidates to campus the last week of March. Students on the advisory council for BAVO were involved in the interviews and we plan to have someone in place by June 1, 2019, if not sooner.

We are committed to finding the right person to lead such an important office on our campus. In the interim, we have relied on our healthcare professionals and campus ministers to support our students. Our BAVO Allies, who are College employees, are also trained to facilitate GreeNDot Training on campus. We have also utilized outside resources such as SOS of the Family Justice Center. It is our work together that makes us a strong community and helps to support our students.

We have continued to support BAVO programming as we are in the process of hiring a new director. From first-year student orientation and throughout the academic year, for all students, we host training for bystander intervention, campus lectures and community advocacy and have continued to do so with the help of BAVO Allies. Our Regina Hall director has overseen the BAVO student advisory committee to provide campus programming, and they have been active on campus at sporting events and other campus events giving out information and answering questions.

I can assure you that we are committed to raising awareness about sexual assault and providing resources to our students. It is why we administered the HEDS Campus Climate Survey in 2016 and released the results publicly. President Emerita Carol Ann Mooney also implemented a task force on sexual assault in 2015. The task force’s final report outlines steps for moving forward and included the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed and adopted by the tri-campus community in spring of 2017. Additionally, I have just spoken with a campus colleague about reinvigorating the Presidential Task Force on Sexual Violence.

Confidential sources are important. Every student that has come forward requesting confidential resources has been referred to counseling or to Campus Ministry for support. We currently have three counselors, two nurses, a nurse practitioner and three pastoral ministers who can provide confidential support. We look forward to welcoming a new BAVO director and sharing that news soon.

All my best,

Nancy P. Nekvasil

Interim President

Saint Mary’s College

April 11

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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