Investigation must lead to future prevention

In 2010, members of the Keene State College Men’s Basketball team wrote a letter with the intention of bringing light to the alleged sexual harassment by Eugene “Gino” Vallante.

They indicated they did not know where to send their concerns. In hindsight, the letter could have been sent to men’s basketball head coach Robert Colbert. It could have been sent to Director of Athletics John Ratliff. It could have been sent to former KSC President Helen Giles-Gee. But the letter was never sent.

The lesson in this story is clear: For one group of students at one point in time, KSC did not provide adequate resources for them to voice their concerns.  Four years after that letter was written, as students are bravely coming forward with accounts of Vallante’s alleged behavior in the midst of KSC’s internal investigation, the college has an opportunity to make right of its past wrongs. KSC must provide students with more information about the details of their investigation.

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

We are not asking for a completely public investigation — withholding important information on a sensitive subject like this is understandable — but if that investigation is going to carry into the summer, then the college has an obligation to update students on its progress and key findings. Further, the college has the responsibility to provide resources to students who may have been affected by Vallante’s alleged behavior.

And The Equinox is not alone in addressing this concern. The President of Keene State College, the governor of the State of New Hampshire and the President of The United States have also acknowledged the responsibility of institutions to address sexual misconduct on campuses.

Keene State College President Anne Huot stated in an interview with The Equinox that the college administration has made active attempts to talk with students who may be affected by the allegations and the firing of Vallante.

Huot said the investigation has been a learning experience for college officials “about ways in which policies are interpreted.” Huot indicated this is the time for the college and the USNH system to reflect on existing policies.

Huot suggested a review of policy may strengthen faculty members’ understanding of the procedures already in place for handling reports of harassment. “If there’s something good that can come out of this, I think that’s what it is,” Huot said.

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan agreed. In a letter obtained by The Equinox to the University System of New Hampshire Chancellor, Todd Leach, dated March 13, Hassan asks for continued, thorough reviews of the University System’s policies.

Hassan wrote, “…I encourage you to direct this investigation to examine more broadly the University System’s policies and procedures for addressing such allegations…”

Furthermore, the governor also added, “….I also encourage you to empower the outside investigators to fully review these recent events and make the findings available to the public.” As the term approaches its end, we want answers, too.

On April 29, the President of The United States announced his site to provide guidance in preventing sexual assaults against students.

While The Equinox is encouraged by President Obama’s, Governor Hassan’s and President Huot’s stances on reviewing policies and procedures, these are still just words — until changes are made. Everyone, students and those in authoritative roles at KSC, must know how to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct that jeopardizes the safety and security of students.

There is still much work to be done.

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