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December 12, 2023: Update

December 12, 2023 email from President Sarah Bolton to campus: “Update”

Dear Members of the Whitman Community,

I am writing today to let you know that on Friday, we were notified that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education received a complaint that Whitman College is alleged to have “failed to respond to incidents of harassment on campus based on national origin (shared Jewish ancestry).”

We do not yet know the specifics of the complaint, and the OCR was clear that opening this investigation does not imply any finding of responsibility. The OCR is a neutral fact-finder that will gather information and help resolve the complaint. The college is fully cooperating with the OCR in providing the information requested and in discussing the issues of concern. Historically, OCR investigations take some time to resolve.

Every student, staff and faculty member has a right to a campus experience in which they feel safe and welcome. Antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bias and discrimination have no place at Whitman College. We are committed to strengthening our work in combating bias of any kind, and welcome insights the OCR may bring to those efforts.

Harassing another person or group is unacceptable and a violation of our code of conduct. In cases when we received reports of harassment on campus, they have been investigated and adjudicated through the appropriate processes commensurate with our policies. Reports of discrimination received through our bias reporting process have also been promptly addressed. We encourage the campus community to continue to use the reporting channels that are put in place to protect all of our community members. Similarly, we support the use of federal reporting mechanisms by members of our community. The OCR specifically warns against retaliation against anyone involved in filing a complaint and retaliation against anyone for filing an internal or external complaint is similarly prohibited by Whitman policy. If you have questions or concerns about this process, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Sarah Bolton

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