A Message to Our Alumni from President Demleitner

May 20, 2024

The conversations and advocacy I have seen around the issue of sexual misconduct since joining the college, and especially in the past several weeks, are both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is clear our alumni care deeply about the institution and want to see positive change. In a small community such as ours, incidents of sexual misconduct can feel especially damaging. Creating a culture of belonging for our students, where everyone in the community feels safe, and trusts in the institution to take their concerns seriously, is a priority for me.

I joined St. John’s College as the Annapolis president a little more than two years ago – in July, I will become the collegewide president. When the board selected me, they did so knowing that I believe in this work and tasked me with continuing and strengthening the efforts that began before my tenure. Many of these efforts, including the important work of the Campus Culture Committee, were specifically instituted in response to alumni feedback.

In 2017, the Board of Visitors and Governors’ Campus Culture Committee released its report. The committee was tasked with a comprehensive review of St. John’s policies and practices on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and consensual relationships to ensure that the college supports an equitable education and work environment and prioritizes student safety and well-being. Hundreds of surveys and interviews were conducted with alumni, students, staff, faculty and other community members. As a result of the committee’s work, the college’s policies were streamlined and strengthened. Importantly, the position of an independent Title IX coordinator was created on each campus.

We have continued to refine our approach since 2017, investing additional resources, including use of outside investigators for all formal complaints received, and adapting our policies to comply with updated state and federal regulations, including the new Title IX guidelines which were released earlier this year. In addition to regular ongoing training required for faculty and staff, a more enhanced training program will be in place by this fall. Students are also provided an orientation.

In recent years, the Title IX coordinator role on each campus began reporting to newly created director positions that would oversee campus health, wellness, safety, and residential life, and report directly to each campus president. By 2023, the director positions were elevated to vice president positions, giving each a place on their respective president’s senior cabinet, further reflecting the prioritizing of the issues. More resources have been devoted to these areas than ever before, including federal, state, and foundation grant funding specifically dedicated to improving the culture of belonging at the college. In Annapolis, we recently conducted a survey, which will help us evaluate how students, especially women, non-cisgender students, people of color, and other minority groups feel about their time at the college, both inside and outside of the classroom, and will continue to guide our work moving forward.

Today, formal complaints made to the college regarding sexual misconduct or harassment are taken seriously and immediately responded to and managed according to policies and procedures. To protect the rights of the parties these matters are confidential. As such, I am unable to comment on any recent or past cases.

I strongly encourage any alumni, student, faculty, staff, or other community member who has experienced this type of misconduct, even if it happened a long time ago, to report this information to the college. For more information on this process, as well as options for community support in Annapolis and Santa Fe, visit our new alumni web page at sjc.edu/title-ix/alumni-information.

Again, I thank you all for sharing your concerns and experiences and for your advocacy. I know we all want the college to offer not only a singular liberal arts education but also provide an environment in which everyone feels safe and heard. I hope you can take pride knowing the dedicated effort being put toward addressing these issues.

President Nora Demleitner, St. John’s College Annapolis