To the Lafayette Community:
The College is investigating reports about two separate weekend incidents in which homophobic slurs, other derogatory language, and threats were directed toward some members of our community by other members of our community. One of these incidents, which included a report of an assault, has been the subject of significant social media activity.
Federal privacy law prohibits me from discussing the details of any specific student-conduct cases. Nevertheless, I believe that this is a moment to address our shared values, the behaviors we expect of one another, and how the College responds to alleged violations of our community standards.
First, let me be clear: Discriminatory behavior—including the use of hateful speech—is abhorrent. Nearly 30 years ago, the Princeton Review ranked Lafayette the most homophobic campus in the nation. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I understand firsthand the fear that comes from having to negotiate a world where your very identity may be rejected. Yet I have also witnessed the positive change in our community over the last 20 years. We cannot allow any hard-won progress to be lost, and we must continue to improve. An environment where individuals do not feel safe is antithetical to our shared commitment to help students succeed. Eradicating discriminatory insults and intimidating threats from our discourse does not impinge on freedom of speech. It creates the kind of respectful, equitable environment to which every student who comes to Lafayette is entitled.
Second, when incidents such as these occur, we will follow our investigative and judicial processes until all facts are known, and we will not defer to demands on social media and elsewhere to act immediately. We are an educational institution, and our conduct system is aligned with our goals to change behavior and not solely punish individuals. Social media platforms are not part of our mechanisms to hold students accountable for behavior that is incompatible with our campus values. Calls for action against an individual, ahead of a full investigation and adjudication process, will not be answered. The integrity of a conduct process that relies on evidence gathering is essential to fundamental fairness and cannot be undermined.
Finally, the raw emotions and heartbreak caused by incidents of discrimination or intimidation do not justify attempts to intimidate or harass those alleged to have violated our policies in return, online or in person. Such acts can escalate the danger to individuals and the community or amplify information later found to be inaccurate. As an institution, we created the One Pard system to help collect factual information about issues of concern. Receiving firsthand knowledge about incidents is critical to our process, and we thank those who come forward with details they have witnessed.
The Dean’s Task Force on Strengthening Community arose from the call from Student Government to work on ways to positively influence the student experience, and we look forward to the results of that work this fall. We continue to work with students, faculty, and staff to strengthen our shared understanding of community values and expectations in new student orientation and beyond. We will continue to provide transparency regarding our processes by publishing aggregate statistics from both the Student Conduct and Educational Equity offices on our website.
We must work together to create the supportive, equitable environment we want to see at Lafayette and in the larger community. I hope that I can count on you to be part of that effort.
Vice President for Campus Life