The College of St. Scholastica apologized to students, faculty and staff this week in an emailed memo expressing regret for a decision to end an advisory team designed to support survivors of sexual or gender misconduct.
"We are sorry that we missed a step in engaging the community fully before a decision was reached," said the memo, signed by President Colette Geary and a host of other administrators.
Amid swift backlash earlier this month, the school rescinded its decision for the time being to dissolve the Gender Equity and Anti-Violence Team.
In its latest email, the administration outlined a path forward as it confronts changing federal guidelines on how to respond to reports of misconduct. A pair of campus listening sessions with senior administrators has been scheduled for the last week of January. A steering committee that includes students and other non-administrators will also be convened.
"It's a good gesture that they recognized their mistake and did apologize," said Meghan Stordahl, whose change.org petition in the wake of the program cut elicited more than 1,400 names.
The GEVA process was one of the avenues available to help people in the wake of experiencing sexual or gender misconduct. The small team of trained faculty and staff advises survivors of options, but a team member's involvement alone would not yield a formal investigation process as other remedies would. Students worried that the school didn't have enough capacity in private counseling services to overcome the loss of the GEVA team.
It's conceivable the program will still be cut, and Stordahl said students were conditionally OK with that.
"If they take away GEVA, that's OK," she said. "But you can't without consulting students or coming up with alternative plans. That they're willing to think about better changes than shutting it down completely is hopeful."
In its letter, the college shed new light into its original motives to cut the GEVA program.
It seemed the college worried that the institution or a GEVA member might be left hung out to dry if a serious incident was heard, but went without further consideration. Title IX law requires federally funded institutions to address sexual misconduct and violence in their midst.
"Our intent is to ensure we have a system where every student situation is appropriately supported by Title IX when needed," the memo said, "and that those employees who provide the first point of contact are fully protected."
"With a more inclusive process," the memo concluded, "we are confident in discerning the most fitting plan for our unique college community."