“Admitting that a man with a long history of sexual predation acted inappropriately and hurt students’ lives in his role as Associate Dean of Students for almost ten years is a necessary first step, and further changes and amends also need to follow.”
Content warning: This article discusses issues of sexual assault involving current and former Wesleyan students, faculty and staff.
Since last Monday’s news of Scott Backer’s arrest, many in the Wesleyan community have been responding with renewed frustration and anger at the current administration for their present and past handling of sexual misconduct cases.
One survivor has stated publicly that Scott Backer allowed for statements about a respondents character (e.g. “He’s such a good guy.”) during a hearing, despite this being against University policy, according to their account. Other accounts tell of Scott Backer asking invasive personal questions during the investigation process.
As a result of these stories and others, a petition was created calling for Wesleyan to admit that Scott Backer mishandled cases of sexual assault during his time on campus. Back in October, when the Wesleyan community was notified of the real reasons for Scott Backer’s firing 3 months after Wesleyan announced his departure sans commentary, President Roth mentioned that after a consultation from Pepper Hamilton, they found “nothing amiss” in the four years’ worth of sexual misconduct cases that Backer oversaw. Since then, there has been no detailed public mention of how Pepper Hamilton went about reviewing cases.
The petition has been circulating on social media and in other channels. It demands for an acknowledgement of Backer’s mishandling of Title IX cases; a disclosure of how Pepper Hamilton conducted its review; and a commitment to “[taking] real steps to make amends for the harm [Backer] caused,” suggesting a task force made up of more students than administrators to conduct Title IX reform as a possible solution. The petition was later updated to include a demand that Wesleyan acknowledge Backer’s mishandling of disability services, which he also oversaw as Associate Dean of Students. Read past the jump for the full text of the petition.
“As someone who identifies with the political left, I welcome this intellectual diversity–and as a teacher, I know that education requires it. If you are on the right, you might call this a remedy for political correctness; if you are on the left, you might prefer to call it the ‘new intersectionality.'”
c/o the Wall Street Journal op-ed
In the haste of reading period and yesterday’s news, we missed big news from President Roth’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for affirmative action for “conservative, libertarian and religious modes of thinking” on college campuses. The op-ed generated quite the buzz on Twitter, and even received mild praise from notable conservative magazine the National Review. Roth’s op-ed, entitled “The Opening of the Liberal Mind” was published in the Wall Street Journal behind a paywall last Thursday, May 11. Luckily, thanks to the Wesleyan Library’s databases, Wesleyan students have access to the op-ed.
Two weeks ago, USLAC released a statement highlighting unfair hiring practices by management at RJ Julia Booksellers, the managing company of Wesleyan’s new book store, which is scheduled to open later this year. Specifically, USLAC brought attention to workers being promised interviews at the new bookstore and having to wait months for an interview. According to the statement, several nonwhite employees were told that they didn’t fit the “RJ Julia Experience.”
USLAC made three public demands of RJ Julia and the Wesleyan administration in response to these accounts:
1. Give all current bookstore workers the opportunity to keep their jobs if they wish to.
2. Guarantee that returning workers will receive at least the salary and benefits they had been receiving before the move.
3. Inform workers immediately about any changes in their workplace and allow them the chance to discuss these issues freely without fear of losing their jobs.
Monday afternoon, a delegation of students voiced their concerns to the RJ Julia general manager outside of North College after a meeting between two students and the general manager was interrupted by a fire alarm.
Earlier today, I received a tip from a friend that yesterday (April 23), a group of older white “protesters” were demonstrating in the 100 block of Washington Street (between High Street and Main) around 2-3PM, and were displaying signs with messages like “White America is the real America.” After I updated today’s post with that information, Wesleying received several anonymous tips confirming that there was indeed a white nationalist demonstration on Washington Street yesterday afternoon.
Those submitting the tips said that they overheard the group of white nationalist demonstrators planning an “anti affirmative action” demonstration outside of the Office of Admission at 9PM tonight. But that’s not exactly how it panned out.
According to multiple Facebook statuses and several posts on Twitter, posters like the one above appeared around campus likely sometime overnight. The posters read: “Illegal immigrants in your town? Do your part!” and figure a white woman stylized as a cartoon and present a phone number for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I’ve blocked out the number above so as to not reproduce this dangerous piece of information. According to accounts that have been circulating on social media, there are other posters around campus referencing “white genocide.”
Several people on Facebook have been calling for these posters to be removed, sharpied-out, and/or posted over by anyone who sees them. I want to reiterate these calls and say that whoever is responsible for these posters is absolute filth. In addition to bystander actions, Public Safety should be actively removing these posters around campus, as they are a threat to students and full time Middletown residents.
It is hard to say whether or not these were posted by a Wesleyan student, especially given the scope of national press coverage of Wesleyan’s sanctuary campus declarations last fall.
“If the Wesleyan Administration and R.J Julia refuse to meet these conditions, we will organize a boycott of the new bookstore until they do.”
Last Thursday night, we received a tip from a member of USLAC (United Student/Labor Action Coalition) about unfair hiring practices by the managing company of the new Wesleyan bookstore on Main Street, RJ Julia Booksellers. The tip read as a press release and was also shared on the USLAC Facebook page, where it received over 20 shares.
In the release, USLAC members state that current employees at Broad Street were promised jobs early on by R.J. Julia, but were left without any concrete information on on their future employment for months, only to find out that their new positions would come with a cut to their pay and benefits. The release also highlights accounts of racially-coded criticism coming from management at R.J. Julia. The statement makes 3 specific demands of R.J. Julia and the Wesleyan administration and hints of future actions and a potential boycott of the bookstore if the demands are not met. Read past the jump for USLAC’s full statement:
[Updated, 4/2/17, 10:34PM] The post was updated to correct an error in authorship. This post was written by kitab and edited by wilk.
This February, the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) visited Wesleyan to assess our Title IX policies and procedures. Students were notified of their consultation in an all-campus email sent out by Antonio Farias on January 31st. There were three primary goals of the consultation, according to this email:
VRLC are charged with gathering information about the strengths and weaknesses of Wesleyan’s response to reports of sexual and gender-based misconduct, particularly:
- The clarity of resources for students, faculty, and staff;
- The accessibility of the process to all students, faculty, and staff, including underrepresented minorities, first-gen, low-income, and LGBTQ populations;
- The collaboration between the Title IX Office and other first responders.
Their 22-page final report was released on March 23 and emailed out in a classic Roth “Campus Update” this Wednesday. See after the jump for a summary of the report and some commentary.
Students arriving back from spring break on Saturday were treated to a special release party for a long-awaited staple of Wesleyan activism: Disorientation, the annual guide compiled by campus activists to, in their own words, “serve as a resource for students looking to get involved with political organizing on campus.”
Disorientation is a tradition that has, in some form or another, existed since the 1970s. In addition to serving as a guide for student activists, it’s meant to 1) act as a counterbalance to the admin-approved information that new students and prefrosh receive during campus tours, WesFest, and the official Orientation sessions, and 2) keep a historical record of campus activism, protests, and organizing, as well as administrative failures from the perspective of students. The latter is especially important because, like most four-year universities, Wesleyan’s institutional memory is short, and keeping activist movements alive on campus is difficult when there’s a constant turnover of students. Disorientation acts, in part, as a reference for those wondering what issues have been central to campus discourse in the past, and what methods can be reutilized for future organizational efforts.
The guide’s most recent iteration formed in Fall of 2014, spearheaded by Abby Cunniff ’17 and Claire Marshall ’17. It’s primarily been presented as an online PDF, posted to WesAdmits around the beginning of fall semester, but also has been distributed as a paper zine. You can view the Spring 2017 issue (edited by Abby and Paige Hutton ’18), as well as our breakdown of what’s in it, after the jump:
At around 1:45pm today, the Chair of the Board of Trustees Donna Morea ’76 sent out an all-campus email announcing the extension of President Michael Roth‘s contract. He will continue to remain President of the University through 2023.
Morea’s email highlighted the success of Roth’s “This Is Why” fundraising campaign; his launch of multiple academic programs during his nearly decade-long run as President; and his future plans for the “Beyond 2020” initiative (although the email doesn’t go into much detail on this front). It makes no mention of the fact that last October, over 200 students called for the removal of President Roth and Vice President of Equity & Inclusion Antonio Farias in a town hall.
Here is the full email text:
Early this morning, posters like the one above appeared around campus, calling out institutional protection of sexual predators. Many were removed shortly thereafter, but as of mid-morning, some remain.
The posters follow increased anger with the administration last semester for a variety of institutional failures. In particular, students and faculty alike have criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the firing of former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer and, before that, the Title IX complaint filed by Associate Professor of Classical Studies Lauren Caldwell, which states that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a fellow professor. Last October, more than 200 students at a town hall meeting reached consensus to push for the removal of Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and University President Michael Roth from their positions at the University. That same month, over 30 professors issued a statement to the Argus, calling for independent review of sexual assault cases at the University.