PHC Chancellor Michael Farris Responds to Independent Review Committee Report
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Yesterday the Independent Review Committee (IRC) of Patrick Henry College (PHC) made public to PHC alumni their final report and recommendations about campus sexual assault. Requested by PHC’s alumni association and commissioned by the college on February 19, 2014, the the IRC’s purpose was to conduct “an independent review of the New Republic incidents, and those propounded by any other past allegations of sexual assault, either in this audit or a separate one.” (“The New Republic incidents” refer to numerous cases of sexual assault and harassment at PHC as reported by Kiera Feldman in The New Republic.) The committee consisted of 8 PHC alumni: Chair Megan Kirkpatrick, Jenna Lorence, Daniel Noa, Matthew Roche, Lindsay See, Holly Vradenburgh, Brian Wright, and an additional member whose employment prohibits disclosure. The IRC later added one final member, Jordan Wood Benavidez.
This morning, PHC Chancellor Michael Farris responded to the Independent Review Committee’s report and emailed that response to all PHC students. Farris provided an initial and personal response in the text of the email and then attached a document to the email that he said was “a reply from the College that I have written.” You can read Farris’s email response here and read Farris’s official Patrick Henry College response here.
A few important parts from both of Farris’s responses to highlight are:
• Michael Farris blames the media attention not on PHC’s poor handling of sexual assault cases but rather on a sense of Christian martyrdom:
“I believe that this focus has been aimed at PHC because of our faith, our visibility, and our success.”
• Michael Farris minimizes the two assault cases mentioned in The New Republic, referring to them as
“two incidents from years earlier that were clearly not on that level of criminality.”
• Michael Farris says “these discussions” — what discussions he means is not clear (is he talking about the IRC report? the New Republic piece? discussions about assault?) — are “unfair”:
“I believe in PHC students. These discussions unfairly taint all of us with a brush that clearly is not fair to many, many innocent people. Our students are, in the vast majority, among some of the finest, most honorable young men and women I’ve ever met.”
• Michael Farris says the College was not willing to allow the IRC to review the incidents mentioned in the New Republic, despite this being an express purpose of the IRC:
“The College did not believe that it was appropriate or possible for any such committee to conduct an investigation that would review disputed factual allegations from incidents that were several years old at the time of the New Republic article.”
• Encouragingly, it appears that PHC might actually implement a “substantial” number of the IRC recommendations:
“While we cannot determine the exact content of future policies until further study and internal discussions, I will say as Chancellor that I would expect our future path to be in substantial accord with the suggestions made by the IRC.”
Again, you can read Farris’s email response here in entirety and read Farris’s official Patrick Henry College response here in entirety.