Letter from the Dean of the College

November 22, 2004

Dear member of the Mount Holyoke College community,

Last week President Creighton emailed you to inform you of several incidents that appeared to involve crimes of bias against members of our community. In the wake of those incidents, our community has drawn together in support of the students who were targeted, in condemnation of the crimes themselves, and in calling for a heightened awareness of the nature of bias incidents and our resources for responding to them. I write you now to update you on the investigations into these incidents, and to point you to the beginning of a website that will pull together resources concerning bias incidents.

Members of our Public Safety department, acting in their capacity as police officers, have done an outstanding job in investigating these incidents. They have now identified a total of three suspects in two of the incidents, and are currently seeking criminal charges against all three of these suspects. They have identified a possible suspect in a third incident, and continue to investigate a fourth report. Their work required analyzing a complex web of information gathered from human sources, other police sources, and from cell phone and internet records, and I commend them for the speed and effectiveness of their considerable work. This work reflects our shared commitment to eradicate bias and its pernicious effects within our community.

You can find a full report on the current state of Public Safety's investigations at a website we are constructing at the Dean of the College's webpage. We will be posting further developments on this site as they take place. The prosecution of these crimes is something that the College is pursuing with the district attorney's office on behalf of all members of the community, and I invite you to keep abreast of progress; see the Dean of the College Web site.

In addition to information about these incidents and our progress in responding to them, we will in coming weeks be adding to the resources available on this website, including information and literature about the nature of bias incidents; Mount Holyoke's policies and procedures for responding to bias incidents; resources for support and for coping if you have been targeted in a bias incident; resources for fighting back; and other resources that are helpful in understanding and combating bias incidents. I hope also that you will feel free to suggest to me resources that you think will be useful.

The student who was targeted by the vandalism and the offensive phone calls responded with a courage and intelligence that go beyond what most of us would have available under threat. We will all need to become more aware of the nature of these and other bias threats, and of our resources for dealing with them. At the beginning of next semester the dean of students' office will conduct, in conjunction with student groups, events designed to develop our understanding of such threats and to enhance our ability to respond to them. I look forward to helping to work on this project.

Legislation framed and adopted by the faculty in 1971 says poignantly, "A College does not become a community by so naming itself. Community is a dynamic condition, difficult and necessary to achieve, reached by active synthesis, by the consensus of free wills and free intelligences agreeing to pursue objectives in common, in an atmosphere of general sympathy, forbearance, respect, and trust.... Ultimately the quality of life in the College is the property of the conscience of all its members."* These words can guide us now as we work together against racial and other forms of intolerance.

Best wishes,

Lee Bowie
Dean of the College

*Mount Holyoke College, Faculty Legislation, Section V, Part IV-A.