Message to the Campus Community — November 2, 2016

To the Bowdoin campus community,

I write to share results of a student survey conducted last winter to help us all better understand student experiences with relationships, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. A summary of what we learned from the survey and how the results will inform our programming this year and beyond is available here.

Bowdoin achieved an unheard of 81 percent response rate to the Bowdoin Experiences and Attitudes about Relationships and Sex (B.E.A.R.S.) Survey administered in February to all students over the age of eighteen. This best-in-the-nation level of participation—along with respondent demographics that align closely with the demographics of the overall student body—demonstrate that Bowdoin students are fully engaged with these matters and that they care about and for one another. The survey results greatly enhance our ability to understand the challenges we face and provide valuable data that will be instrumental in helping to improve our education and prevention programs.

The survey information is rich and textured and gives the most complete picture yet of what life on campus is like in terms of relationship behavior. To better understand sexual misconduct and gender-based violence, I encourage you to review Bowdoin’s annual judicial report and our Clery report. These two reports, along with the B.E.A.R.S. survey results, provide the number of incidents, reports, and complaints of sexual misconduct and gender-based violence.

Like other colleges and universities across the country, we confront issues of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and dating misconduct. When comparing our data with those in other surveys, keep in mind that surveys can differ in the questions asked, how terms are defined, and how questions are presented. As a result, comparisons across institutions should be done thoughtfully.

Some of this material may be upsetting or dispiriting to read, but it is critical to our efforts to end sexual and relationship violence. Having a clear picture of our issues is absolutely essential to creating proper programming and making progress. We are a college with high expectations for conduct and responsibility, and we are justifiably proud of the safety, dignity, and respect that define the Bowdoin community. Our work to eliminate these behaviors must continue in ways that are effective and transparent, and we will judge our progress by comparing these survey results with those in the future.

I am impressed and gratified by the time and attention our community gave to this endeavor. I am particularly grateful to our recent graduates Ali Ragan ’16 and Emma Patterson ’16 and to Marina Affo ’17, Amanda Spiller ’17, and Kendall Schutzer ’18, all of whom played important roles in both the creation and marketing of the survey 

Benje Douglas, director of gender violence prevention and education, and Stephanie Foster, assistant director of institutional research, will host a community forum at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, November 7, in Daggett Lounge, Thorne Hall, to discuss the B.E.A.R.S. Survey. I hope this session will both answer questions and motivate you to take a lead in prevention efforts. In addition, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education, under the leadership of Lisa Peterson, will continue to engage the multiple student groups focused on this issue.

For those who experience sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and relationship violence, there are many ways to get help, and all are focused on you as the individual and your needs. We have these issues on our campus, and we will not ignore them. When they happen, we must have a thoughtful process that puts students first. Most important, we need to create an environment where any form of sexual misconduct or gender-based violence is not tolerated. This work is underway at Bowdoin and will continue. It has my full and unwavering support as we work together to build a community free from the threat and effects of sexual harassment and assault.