Former Director Rowan Frost leaves college after voicing concerns that administration was not “committed to supporting survivors”; students and staff acknowledge difficulty protecting confidentiality.
By Declan Bradley
After more than nine years directing Reed’s Sexual Health, Advocacy, and Relationship Education program (SHARE), former director Rowan Frost left Reed at the end of June, leaving students uncertain about the future of the program and their ability to handle crisis situations.
While no official reason has been given for former director Frost’s departure, and an official statement sent to the Quest by SHARE declined to comment on those details, a student SHARE advocate speaking on the condition of anonymity stated that Frost had chosen to step down from their position at least partially because, “she didn’t feel that the admin was committed to supporting survivors. And after nine years of trying and fighting, she was unable to make any changes about it.” The student continued that former director Frost had also cited a sense that “there was more concern about protecting people accused of misconduct than supporting survivors who experienced it,” and that this feeling had contributed to their decision to leave the college. The Quest has independently confirmed that these quotes accurately reflect former director Frost’s statements.
When reached for comment by the Quest, Vice President for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black declined to comment on the specifics of former director Frost’s departure, saying that, “Reed does not comment on personnel matters.” Dr. McConnell-Black — who the Quest had allowed to review the above paragraph — continued that, “Reed College provides multifaceted support for survivors, distinguishing itself by offering a dedicated program that addresses sexual health, advocacy, and relationship education—an institutionalized program not commonly found among colleges in Oregon. Recognizing the vital need for institutionalized support on college campuses, the college has responded by allocating additional resources per the SHARE program director’s recommendations in the annual budget request process. These funds have been put to use by expanding the student staffing within the SHARE program, bolstering the Night Owls harm reduction team, and enhancing outreach efforts through initiatives such as SHARE Bar and SHARE Lounge. This expansion of outreach programming serves the dual purpose of supporting survivors while also actively striving to prevent instances of sexual misconduct by promoting education and fostering a culture of care within the community.” “Reed follows all federal and state laws and guidance on investigating allegations of sexual misconduct,” McConnell-Black said, “and works to ensure all involved in an investigation are treated fairly and impartially.”
Again speaking on the condition of anonymity, a different student involved in SHARE confirmed that the program has received additional resources in recent years, and that the additional support has enabled them to expand their offerings to students, including SHAREbars. The student also stated that the program went over budget in 2021 “after many years of running under,” in an attempt to, “showcase what SHARE could do with the extra money.” The following year, the program attempted to formalize this by requesting a budget in line with the additional spending from 2021, but was denied and allocated funds equivalent to their 2020 budget. Later, in the year, however, the program received additional supplementary funding from Dr. K and the Office of Student Life, and, a year later, was allocated “essentially all that we wanted” for the 2023-24 school year.
The college has already begun a search for a new program director, with Medical Services Director Timmie Rochon, Associate Dean of Students for Health & Wellbeing Yasodha Gopal, and Counseling Services Director Johanna Workman serving on the search committee. A listing for the position of SHARE Director remained live on Reed’s job site (jobs.reed.edu) for much of July and August, but was removed sometime in recent weeks, indicating that the search has moved beyond the open application stage. The Quest received an anonymous tip that the new SHARE Director will be hired at a starting salary of $60,000, while the new position of Equity and Community Conduct Investigator — which will report to the Title IX office — will be hired at $70,000-75,000, although reporters were only able to formally confirm the second half of this tip, as the job listing for SHARE Director was not archived by the WayBack Machine.
Speaking on behalf of the search committee, Dr. Gopal explained that, due to an “unexpectedly large number of applicants” for the position, the committee has already selected three “strong candidates” who came to campus for further interviews on August 28th, August 31st, and September 5th, respectively — putting the search on track to formally hire a new program director by mid September. Current advocates confirmed that they were able to participate in the search process, and students will have met with all three visiting candidates by the time of publication, just as they would for a prospective professor. Quest reporters who first began researching this story in July asked to attend these sessions, but Dr. Gopal expressed the search committee’s sense that, “it would be inappropriate to sit in and report on each candidate’s interview” — while assuring the paper that reporters would be able to meet with the new SHARE director once they are formally hired.
Until a new director can be found, Associate Dean Gopal is “in charge of the program” and directly supervising students, although she has not been appointed interim program director in an official capacity. Dr. Gopal explained that she, Dr. Workman, and Dr. Toutain practice professionally under licenses which place them under complex legal obligations in situations of confidentiality, and which would make it difficult for them to serve as formal interim directors. “Making us interim directors,” Dr. Gopal said, “would not be the best plan, as it puts our licenses at risk and complicates our support of students.”
While students expressed gratitude to Gopal — with a statement from SHARE saying that, “she has gone above and beyond during this interim period and we are incredibly thankful for her work!” — students also acknowledged concern that these licenses, and the requirements they place upon Gopal and Workman, could potentially interfere with SHARE’s traditional role as a confidential resource for students. The college’s listing for the position of SHARE Director stated that, “The Program Director is a certified confidential resource with legal privilege for people who have experienced sexual and relationship misconduct or other forms of interpersonal violence.” Due to their licenses, neither Gopal nor her colleagues have this form of legal privilege, and Workman acknowledged in an email to the Quest that, “the mandates which licensed professionals are under present a conflict in privacy disclosures for advocates.”
In a statement to the Quest, SHARE advocates reassured students that confidentiality will be protected, saying that, “Advocates at Reed are legally confidential, and that remains regardless of Rowan’s absence.” The statement acknowledged that advocates would turn to Dr. Workman and her expertise in health and counseling services to “debrief and discuss potential options,” as they had previously done with former director Frost, but that advocates would “leave out any and all identifying information for survivors,” essentially self-censoring during their debriefing sessions in order to protect student confidentiality. Advocates encouraged students to reach out to them at email@example.com with any questions about this practice.
Nevertheless, some students expressed concern about the “very chaotic situation” currently facing the program, with one student describing it as “a huge turbulence for the SHARE program.”
Students expressed particular anxiety about the state of the program’s readiness for new student Orientation Week, which has, tragically, been a historically dangerous time for new students. Before Orientation Week this year, The SHARE Instagram posted a request to their Instagram story asking if any returning students that were on-campus during Orientation Week would be available to give a consent talk to the incoming freshmen. While some returning Reedies did step up and lead consent talks, they were not previously affiliated with SHARE. They did, however, go through training that student Meera Balan, who gave one of the consent talks, described as, “direct, impactful, and easy to follow.”
Official SHARE Advocates were on site during O-Week, with SHARE’s statement to the Quest confirming that advocates maintained “regular Night Owl and SHARE Lounge shifts the Friday and Saturday of O-Week,” as well as a SHARE bar that Saturday. SHARE orientation teams met with Dr. Gopal to discuss those events and their plans to “best support our incoming students and their safety and well-being.” Meanwhile, HCC staff took over responsibility for language scholar orientation, and Dr. Toutain stepped in to present to new faculty during their orientation period, a responsibility typically filled by the director of SHARE. However, some students still expressed concern. Again speaking on the condition of anonymity, one student worried about going through this “challenging time” without a formal director, saying that, “without a director, it’s all just … like no supervision,” and that, “I think the quality … of the plan we have for orientation … might not be that ideal,” although this interview was conducted prior to orientation week.
With regard to training, SHARE advocates confirmed that they facilitated consent talks during O-Week, as well as assisting in training for hall advisors (HAs) and Orientation Wayfinding Leaders (OWLs). However, at this time the training process for newly hired SHARE advocates themselves has been suspended. Former director Frost had reportedly offered to temporarily train new advocates as a contractor, rather than an employee, of Reed, but Vice President for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black informed students that, for HR reasons, such a temporary contract with Frost “will never happen at Reed College.”
When asked for comment on this policy, Dr. McConnell-Black referred the Quest to Reed’s official policy on outside contractors (available on Reed’s HR website), and said that, “There is specific guidance that the Department of Labor requires HR to follow. The government requires that an individual who is a contractor must be in alignment with the Department of Labor guidance. If they are unable to [meet those requirements] they would need to be an employee of the college.” While the Quest has been unable to determine for certain what part of this policy informed the college’s decision not to pursue hiring Frost as a contractor, the policy does state that, “The work of an Independent Contractor is unlikely to be integral to Reed.”
Until a new SHARE Director can be formally hired, Associate Dean Gopal will continue to oversee the program, with students serving in the primary role of confidential advocacy. Students needing confidential support are encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, or, if they want to make a formal (non-confidential) report of assault or other misconduct, to Dean of Students Chris Toutain (email@example.com) — who is continuing to fulfill the responsibilities of his prior position as Title IX Coordinator until a full replacement can be found. Reed’s Community Safety hotline (503-788-6666) should be used for emergency situations.