Over the past few weeks, students have been calling for the removal of President Roth and Dean Antonio Farias. This afternoon, Roth sent an all-campus email with subject line “Campus Update,” asking hard-hitting questions like, “What can we do? What will the administration do?” and seeming to once again expect students to provide him with answers. The email makes no mention of calls for his removal, but does identify three areas of concern: transparency, Title IX processes, and the results of the Equity task force created last spring in response to the IsThisWhy campaign. He calls for more student input on each topic, because the administration can “only do so much.”
Many survivors have been expressing their pain with strength and eloquence, and Roth apparently acknowledges that. His response, however, is yet another call for others to take on much of the work necessary, work that will somehow, inexplicably, lead to “real results.” Full text of the email can be found after the jump.
The news that a former staff member of the University had been fired by his previous employer for grossly inappropriate behavior has led to student protests and powerful expressions of pain. At a time when we are confronted by cavalier discussions of sexual abuse even in the presidential campaign, the revelations here have reopened wounds of many on campus who are survivors. Their anguish is all too real, and we must work to change the conditions that gave rise to it.
What can we do? What will the administration do? As I’ve listened to campus concerns, they seem to fall into three key areas: transparency; Title IX issues; and following up on task force recommendations on equity and inclusion.
Transparency only exists with communication, and we are reaching out to student representatives in a series of meetings throughout the rest of the semester and beyond. We are also putting together resources where all students can find information on what we are doing to address major concerns. Are there other ways in which we can be more open about our decision-making processes? If you have ideas about this, let me or others in the administration know. I have office hours on most Monday afternoons, but I can make appointments to talk any day I’m on campus (contact presoffice[at]wesleyan[dot]edu or 860-685-3500).
In regard to Title IX, we are meeting with students and bringing in a consultant to review all our procedures and help us decide if we should use outside personnel to handle accusations of sexual misconduct involving students. In the meantime, we are working hard to make sure that the procedures we have are put to best possible use in meeting the needs of our students. If you would like to make a Title IX report or have questions about the process, please contact Debbie Colucci, Equity Compliance Director & Deputy Title IX Coordinator, dcolucci[at]wesleyan[dot]edu or 860-685-2456, or Alysha Warren, Therapist/Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator, awarren[at]wesleyan[dot]edu or 860-685-3217.
Finally, we are working on the Equity Task Force recommendations from last year. We have put in place a new Opportunity Hires policy to facilitate the diversification of our faculty and staff, and we have identified possible locations for the new Resource Center as well as allocating resources for a dedicated staff person. Next step: more student input.
These are only some of the initiatives underway to respond to the student concerns. But administrative initiatives, no matter how well-intentioned, can only do so much. We need to care for one another. Some of the most meaningful voices I’ve heard come from students describing the pain they are in, pain that haunts their lives, suffering that is heightened every time another attack is reported, every time we display the failure to have moved our campus far enough toward a culture of belonging and away from one of marginalization. Like so many others on the faculty and in the administration, I both want to acknowledge the awful reality of this anguish and pledge to work across the campus to address its sources.
Students, staff and faculty desire and deserve a transparent, responsive, and respectful community. This is work in which we all have a part. It depends on listening, on caring for one another, and on work that leads to real results. As president, I pledge to do my part.
Michael S. Roth