Jon Hatch incident sparks a call for community

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Former Associate Professor of Mathematics Jonathan Hatch ()

“I’m more worried about getting attacked at Guilford College than I am at home in New York City,” said junior Olivia Holmes. Her fear, though extreme, is not unfounded.

Tensions on campus have been heightened since May 25, when former Associate Professor of Mathematics Jonathan Hatch was arrested and charged with one felony count of secret peeping and eight counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Hatch resigned shortly after allegations were made against him, as confirmed by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow, and is no longer permitted on campus grounds due to his criminal arrest.

When such events occur on campus, assigning blame to Campus Life or Public Safety is missing the mark. Issues that affect students rest on the shoulders of the campus community as a whole. It is our collective responsibility to foster a safe haven for education, to support and be considerate of one another, and to speak out when we become aware of an injustice.

An additional emphasis should be placed on the bravery of the victim in this case. Her immediate recognition of the inappropriateness of Hatch’s actions and the swiftness of her call to Public Safety exemplifies the responsibility each of us has to maintaining a safe educational environment.

“Guilford needs to be a safe environment where students want to be and want to learn,” said Director of Human Resources and Payroll Fred Devine. “It starts at the lowest level. Make that first step to report (because) without communicating something has happened, we can’t help.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be at Guilford.

Because of the confidentiality policies in place and the control of the investigation’s outcome resting in the hands of the reporting party, students can take comfort in knowing that, at Guilford, their concerns are not only received, but treated with care.

“In my seven years at Guilford, we’ve only had two attacks from strangers off campus,” said Fetrow. “And in both of those attacks, we’ve notified the campus community because they pose an ongoing threat.”

Both Fetrow and Director of Public Safety Ron Stowe report that this is not the first assault of a sexual nature that has taken place on campus, most being isolated incidents that remain confidential per the victim’s request.

While learning that the majority of attacks at Guilford occur between members of our community may burst the metaphorical “bubble” of safety that students believe to reside in, it poses a challenge that we must face as one united front.

“When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” said Melissa Daniel Frink, director of the Learning Commons.

That sentiment rings true for many students, faculty, and staff who felt the impact of this event. Many reacted with a series of strong emotions, but our response must now go beyond that and take the form of action.

Stowe refers to the Hatch incident as an unfortunate “wake-up call” for the Guilford community.

“Most of the time, we think of the people committing these offenses as serious offenders who stand out,” said Stowe, “but most of the time they don’t look any different from us; they’re in our classes and living across the hall and we must be aware and take precautions to protect ourselves and each other.”

Some suggestions from Public Safety include being aware of your surroundings, knowing who is around you, and going with your gut if something causes you discomfort. Especially important is to speak up and not be afraid to report things that you think threaten this community.

“If we all take our role as members of this community seriously, then together we can help keep the community safe,” said Stowe.

Fetrow notes that preventing sexual assault at Guilford is largely up to the students. Our campus is a living, breathing community. It thrives on students’ creativity, dedication, and concern for cohesion. These qualities can work to our advantage.

If you have a complaint, do something about it. Share your concerns with those who are trained to help and who have a goal that aligns with our own: to better protect the members of our community.