Articles in the Des Moines Register Sunday and Monday regarding an alleged sexual assault at Central College were critical of the Central Administration’s response to the alleged incident. In the Sunday article, it was reported that a graduating senior who a college panel found responsible for “non-consensual sex” with a fellow student was given a choice: be expelled a month before graduation or stay in school with the conditions that he not walk in the ceremony and allow the college to notify a future employer and other schools that he’d violated the code of conduct. The Register questioned the effectiveness the procedures Central has in place to deal with such incidents.
In an email sent to the Central College community and shared with KNIA/KRLS, President Mark Putnam related that “while Central College cannot comment on any particular case, the college takes very seriously any report of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault.” He also states that he is disappointed that the Register chose to proceed with an inaccurate article that relies heavily on assumption and speculation from remarkably incomplete information, among other concerns.
Following are copies of the emails sent to the Central Community.
First message from Sunday, April 24, approximately 9:30 a.m.
Members of the Central College Community,
To keep you informed, there was an article in The Des Moines Register today referencing Central College with indications of another tomorrow. The article pertains to an ongoing judicial matter related to a case of sexual misconduct involving two of our students.
I am disappointed that the Register chose to proceed with an inaccurate article that relies heavily on assumption and speculation from remarkably incomplete information, a vague understanding of the legal and regulatory context, commentary from individuals outside the college who have no knowledge of the situation, and compromises the confidentiality we seek to provide for those actively involved in judicial proceedings that remain unfinished.
Please know and as you’ll see from the article, while Central College cannot comment on any particular case, the college takes very seriously any report of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault. Our immediate attention in all cases includes providing for the well-being of the student bringing the concerns forward; including, making a variety of resources available to the student; taking appropriate interim measures to facilitate the student’s ongoing access to our educational, residential and co-curricular programs; addressing any safety concerns; and facilitating his/her access to both campus-based student conduct proceedings and/or criminal proceedings. With respect to any internal proceedings, the college responds with deliberate attention to procedural fairness and a timely result for all involved, while simultaneously endeavoring to provide an appropriate learning environment for the entire college community. Central College has not and will not deviate from these core principles.
Please direct any inquiries from outside the campus or media to Sunny Eighmy, director of college relations.
Mark L. Putnam
Here is the follow-up message:
From: Central College President
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2014 8:15 PM
To: Employees; Students; Retired
Subject: Follow up message for the campus community
This is a follow up in my efforts to keep you informed of a media report about an ongoing student conduct judicial matter involving two of our students. At the end of this email please find my previous message sent earlier this morning, if you missed it and would like additional context.
It profoundly concerns me that we have received information indicating some people are attempting to deduce the identities of the students based on material released in the Des Moines Register. We urge people not to speculate; confidentiality of the people and this ongoing process is of the utmost importance. I’d like to thank our student leadership for drawing attention to this matter among students and the expression of concerns we share with them for the well-being of all our students. Everyone at Central is advised to report and discourage any derogatory or inflammatory statements made against either student or others involved in the case.
We are precluded by federal law from disclosing the education records of our students. As such, we are heavily constrained with respect to the information we are at liberty to share in matters such as these. It is, however, important to state that the college has made substantial efforts throughout this process to maintain compliance with the letter of the law and recent pronouncements from various administrative agencies, including the Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
Nonetheless, it is obviously distressing to hear that any student feels the process was unaccommodating, and rest assured that Central College will continually review its processes in a never-ending effort to improve the process for participants while ensuring continued compliance with the various legal requirements involved in these cases.
I can clarify that at the request of both students, I have extended the deadline for the submission of petitions for appeal, which will be forthcoming very soon. Accordingly, no formal appeals have been submitted yet in this case; no permanent findings have been issued; and no sanctions have been finalized.
I appreciate your ongoing support of all our students and the care and concern for their well-being, in addition to respecting the college’s response with deliberate attention to procedural fairness and a timely result for all involved, while simultaneously endeavoring to provide an appropriate learning environment for the entire college community.
Please feel free to forward any inquiries from outside the campus or media to Sunny Eighmy, director of college relations.
Mark L. Putnam