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Courage Garden Unveiled During Emotional Ceremony

Courage Garden Unveiled During Emotional Ceremony

Courage Garden Unveiled During Emotional Ceremony

Sarah Blodgett

Student a capella groups Bluenotes and Calliope perform at the Courage Garden unveiling ceremony.

Mr. Bradley Apologizes to Victims on Behalf of School

Staff Writer

October 20, 2022

Yixi Zou '25

Rows of students lined the path for guests at the unveiling of the Courage Garden on Sunday, October 1 — an event marking the school’s acknowledgement of the history of sexual assault on campus and its commitment to preventing future cases.


The event was attended by survivors of sexual assault, as well as other alumni and community members. 


In 2016, the school hired law firm Carlton Fields to investigate allegations of past sexual assault on campus. The Locke Lord law firm joined the investigation in February 2018 and presented a report in August of that year which recounted allegations of sexual assault against a number of former faculty and staff members. Two years later, the firm delivered a supplementary report with additional allegations.


The Courage Garden was created to provide comfort and peace to survivors of all sexual assault cases, including those that occurred on campus. A Hotchkiss Alumni Reconciliation Gathering held in November of 2020 inspired Martha Bryan ’77, Carlyn Eaton ’77, Andy Luke ’77, Anne Owen Armfield ’77, Margaret Simpson ’77 and Fred Wacker ’77 to lead the project with the help of the Board of Trustees, the School’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, and other alumni.

Programming began in Elfers Hall with performances by student musicians, followed by a presenta- tion by the garden’s designer, Jenna Pfau from Mariani Landscape. Afterwards, All-School President Richie Mamam Nbiba ’23 recited a poem entitled “Skydive,” which she wrote for the dedication. Head of School Mr. Craig Bradley concluded with a speech apologizing to survivors on behalf of the school and expressing his commitment to student safety.


After a short intermission, survivors, alumni, and faculty members walked to the Courage Garden, flanked by student guests. At the garden, survivors and their class- mates shared personal reflections, followed by a speech from Liz Hines, Board of Trustees co-president. The dedication officially ended with a performance “One Voice” by student a capella groups Calliope and Blue Notes.


The school remains dedicated to practices designed to prevent future sexual assault cases. For example, community members may report concerns to the Community Conduct Committee (CCC) chaired by Dr. Merrilee Mardon, Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty. On the CCC, she and a group of trained adults investigate student reports, maintaining confidentiality throughout the process. 


Regarding the abuse cases of students at the school, Mr. Bradley said, “[The survivors] went to see the Head of School [at the time] and described their experiences, but there was no committee to evaluate the weight of the evidence and they were not believed. With the CCC now established, there’s less of a risk of that today.”


Connecticut state law mandates that all school employees report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. The school has also hired anti-sexual violence organizations “Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network” (RAINN) and “Learning Courage for Adults” to educate faculty and staff about maintaining boundaries and recognizing the more subtle signs of abuse.


Mr. Bradley encourages students to reach out to any trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable. He said, “You don’t have to wait until it becomes a big deal to report. It’s useful for us to be able to address an issue when it’s smaller, rather than just letting it go [and] having something else happen. If we could stop it in the first instance, then we can prevent it in the second instance.”


Some students have suggested additional steps that could be taken. Darcy Dwyer ’25 suggested that the school “offer [ all students] courses related to sexual abuse to help them recognize and prevent these incidents.”


Although many plantings have yet to grow to their full size, the Courage Garden is open for visitors to explore.

Sarah Blodgett

Students create a path from Elfers Hall to Courage Garden as part of the dedication ceremony.

Yixi Zou is a staff writer for The Record.

A version of this article appears in the October 20 issue with the headline "Courage Garden Unveiled in Touching Ceremony."

October 20, 2022

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Courage Garden Unveiled During Emotional Ceremony

Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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EDITORIAL

Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.