October 01, 2014

Keeping Our End of the Bargain

Quid pro quo. Here is the deal struck between Beloit College students and the institution: If you fully engage this college and take advantage of the talented, generous, abundant, creative resources we offer—faculty, staff, physical spaces, programmatic miracles—we will vastly increase the probability of your living a life of purposeful consequence. Quid pro quo.

Students with a high likelihood of complete engagement with the college are among those most sought after by our Admissions Office. With this issue of
Beloit College Magazine, the college will be among the first in the country to publicly document the stories of its undocumented students. In her reporting, Lynn Vollbrecht’06 spoke to four Beloiters who have been speaking out on our campus about their backgrounds, their immigration status, and what it means for them—and for us. You need to read this because whatever else you get out of the stories, you cannot help but be moved by their utterly inspiring engagement with the college. These students are more than keeping their end of the bargain.

Beloiters qua Beloiters. Quid pro quo.

But there are students at this college who fully hold up their end of the bargain and, for reasons outside their control, are derailed. They are victims of uncivil acts perpetrated too often by others within the community. And the broad language of “incivility” masks the atrocities that are included within its boundaries. Racism, homophobia, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. How can you hold up your end of the Beloit College bargain when the college has been a place where, for example, you have been sexually assaulted?

So, let me land there for a moment. According to national reports, one in five women is sexually assaulted during college. Some of them have been Beloit students.

Think about that for a second. Students pursuing a rigorous, life-affirming and future-enhancing education and experience on our campus have been victimized—and often, at the hands of fellow students.

While I have no shortage of good news to share about this community or this college, this is a topic and a truth that demands more attention and more action.

Like most colleges, Beloit has tried to combat sexual assault on campus for many years. And in many ways, we have been far ahead of the field in our work to advocate for victims, train and educate students, and methodically and carefully respond to assault reports.

The college has had a “non-intoxicated, verbal, mutually understood ‘Yes’” policy for several years; we train staff to serve as confidential reporters and counselors for students; we coordinate meetings among male students to discuss their role in prevention and support; and we ask our resident assistants to educate and encourage communication among students. Our student policy committee reviews the sexual assault policy each year and reports findings and suggested changes to student government and the college staff.

In these ways, Beloit has long been among those institutions regularly adopting best practices in this area and applying them. But like so many other institutions, we are also confronted with the fact that it isn’t enough.

Beloit continues to try to be among those at the leading edge of prevention through thoughtful policies and creative cultural change. We continue to make good use of our faculty, staff, and students, most recently through the formation of a new committee to review and, where necessary, revise our policies, develop new approaches to education, and find innovative ways to promote a healthier culture.

I sit here writing this at Chapin’s desk, on a beautiful morning during fall break. The campus is quiet, crisp, and the leaves are a beautiful mix of oranges, yellows, and a little green. But my mind can’t help thinking of all of you, reading this letter where you are.

There will be some among you for whom this will touch a scar or unearth a painful memory. I am writing this in part because I know you’re out there. We know you are out there. And we wish to be better; to be the safest and healthiest campus in America. A place where we (the collective “we”) hold up our end of the quid pro quo bargain for all students, whatever their race, gender, orientation, state, or state of mind.

It’s an audacious dream, but one worth working toward.

-President Scott Bierman


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