Former VP for Equity & Inclusion Antonio Farias and Interim VP for Equity & Inclusion Debbie Colucci
On Thursday, September 20th, Dean Mike Whaley sent an email out to the student body with an update on Wesleyan’s search for a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, following the departure of Antonio Farias last May when he accepted a job at the University of Florida. Whaley’s email announces that he and Professor Nicole Stanton will chair the search committee to replace Farias, and that they would like input from the student body on our “aspirations for the position.” They will be hosting a “group visioning exercise” for the job position description this Thursday in Usdan.
During his tenure on campus, Farias was a controversial figure among the student body. His job was to oversee the Office of Equity and Inclusion, whose mission is to “[provide] leadership and accountability to resolve systemic inequities for all members of the Wesleyan community.” Despite this lofty description, events on campus in the past few years repeatedly led students to call the priorities of Dean Farias into question.
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.
[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.
This morning at around 9:15, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion and Title IX Officer Antonio Farias sent out a campus-wide email, announcing that the University will be conducting a Title IX policy review this semester in partnership with the Victim Rights Law Center. Three representatives from VRLC – Lindy Aldrich, Amanda Walsh, and Candi N. Smiley – will be on campus February 8-9 to host panel discussions and Q&As with faculty members, class deans, and student representatives (you can view bios of the representatives and a full schedule of the panels here). A full report is expected to be completed and made publicly available by late March or early April.
The news follows several months of high-profile controversy surrounding Scott Backer, the former Associate Dean of Students, whose history as a sexual predator was only made public due to an investigative report by the Boston Globe. Last semester was marked by multiple student protests over how Wesleyan handles sexual assault cases and faculty accountability; at an open forum, students expressed their wish for Farias and President Michael Roth to be removed from office. A number of faculty members expressed their own disappointment at the University’s Title IX policy by sending an open letter to the Argus, demanding that faculty sexual harassment cases required independent review by an outside party.
Read Farias’ full email and more information on the VRLC after the jump:
If you are a current student and were around campus at all yesterday, you likely saw hundreds of posters in Exley, a performance installation outside of North College, and/or the interruption of campus tours.
The multitude of actions occurring yesterday came in concert with October Open House, a yearly event put together by the Office of Admission. Yesterday’s open house (and the next one on November 11th) comes prior to Wesleyan’s November 15th deadline for Early Decision I, and is intended to give prospective students a more in-depth view of Wesleyan life than the normal Admissions programming.
A number of students have been organizing in response to conversations that happened at last week’s WhoRunsWes town hall, where more than 200 students reached a consensus to push for the removal of Antonio Farias and Michael Roth from their positions at the University. The intent of these actions was to highlight administrative failures, disrupt the Wesleyan brand, and make visible the pain students have experienced due to the institution’s shortcomings.
Read past the jump for more on what transpired, images and a video from today’s actions.
c/o Abby Cunniff ’17
Last night, at the town hall entitled “WhoRunsWes: An open town hall about community events,” approximately 200 students and several professors gathered in the Daniel Family Commons to discuss the recent news surrounding the firing of Scott Backer.
This article has been the collaborative effort of kitab, Maya, and wilk.
Last night, the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe published the latest installment in their “Private Schools, Painful Secrets” series detailing New England private schools’ repeated mishandling of reports of sexual misconduct and assault involving administrators. The Globe article, titled “Educators accused of sexual misconduct often find new posts,” exposed more explicitly that one of these administrators turned out to be Wesleyan’s own former Associate Dean of Students, Scott Backer.
The Globe team focuses on how the lack of public accountability at private schools allows offenders to “rewrite their pasts,” going on to hold positions at other institutions. Administrations keep quiet to avoid scandal, more concerned with image than the wellbeing of their own and other students. The article makes little mention of our own administration, however.
Interested in structures of accountability at Wesleyan, we looked into the timeline of Backer’s employment and his role in the institutional structures already in place for reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct. What we found suggests that there are very few processes by which student and faculty complaints about administrative conduct can be heard or taken seriously.
That Wesleyan employed an offender for eight years–despite accounts from students that he was not doing his job properly–and then failed to be transparent about his “departure” from the university is an example of a broader pattern. The problem is larger than Scott Backer.