October 25, 2021
Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty -
This month I want to share with you some information about UNH policies and practices regarding sexual assault. As many of you may know, there has been a recent report of sexual assault at UNH; you may have seen newspaper or television coverage of this incident, or perhaps read about it on social media. I first want to emphasize that we do not tolerate any form of sexual harassment at UNH, including sexual violence, and are committed to preventing it. I know the devastating effects that sexual violence can have on survivors and am committed to providing them with resources and options to help them make informed decisions after experiencing an assault.
For two reasons, it is difficult for people in our community to have an accurate understanding of what has happened and what the university has done in the aftermath of a report of sexual assault. First, the university does not publicly discuss the details of a sexual assault report because we respect the privacy of those involved, and so that we do not interfere with any investigation. Second, there is often a great deal of conversation on social media in the aftermath of a reported incident, and much of what is shared on social media is simply not true. These factors are relevant to the current incident, and to essentially all such incidents.
As I have often mentioned in these messages, student success and well-being—including safety—is our priority at UNH. These are not empty words: there are many UNH resources available whenever students feel unsafe or need support:
We encourage any student who has experienced sexual violence or has information regarding sexual violence to report it. When we receive a report that a student has experienced sexual violence, we work with that individual to provide the supportive measures that are most helpful to them. What each survivor needs may be unique, and we work with them to honor their wishes as best we can. The university never discourages an individual from reporting, and we pursue every report that is made to us; however, not all students impacted by sexual violence want the university to investigate the matter.
If we ever have information that indicates that members of our community are in any immediate danger or that there is an ongoing threat to our campus, we take action to protect the safety of our community.
Please be cautious when using social media, particularly anonymous social media. Inaccurate information can spread quickly and spreading inaccurate or unverified information can contribute to feelings of confusion and fear. In particular, some social media posts indicated that there was a series of sexual assaults related to the recent report or that there is an increase of incidents at UNH. While we are only aware of what is reported to us, we have no information at this time that either of these claims are true. That said, reporting options are available if any community member has relevant information. While addressing every statement that we have seen on social media is beyond the scope of this email, I encourage our community to be thoughtful when sharing information and think about the impact it may have on others.
We have a new course on Canvas created by our partners at the SUNY Student Conduct Institute. The Sexual & Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Response Course (SPARC) consists of three modules that assist new students in identifying sexual and interpersonal violence. They review campus policies, introduce available resources and provide tools for preventing violence.
I hope that this information is helpful in understanding the university’s concern for students, the wide range of available services and the constraints on what we can communicate in a given situation.
With my best wishes,
James W. Dean Jr.