“You have no obligation to protect Scott Backer’s reputation. You instead have an obligation to support our community’s uncountable survivors, and they deserve to know the character of the man who judged one of their most painful experiences. They deserve to know, from you, how Wesleyan intends to do better.”
The following is an open letter from Andrew Trexler ’14 to university president Michael S. Roth in the wake of campus turmoil caused by recently released information about the firing of former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer. The views reflected here are the writer’s own.
Michael et al.,
Wesleyan assures us that nationally recognized auditors “found nothing amiss” in Scott Backer’s handling of student conduct and sexual misconduct hearings. Although I am skeptical that Pepper Hamilton was able to thoroughly review years of case files in so short a time, this report is not unexpected. The reality is that the national standards for campus adjudication of sexual misconduct are, in the most delicate terms I can accurately put them, very very fucked. It is therefore no surprise at all to learn that Scott Backer’s handling of these cases meets national standards.
The truth of the matter is that the flaws I witnessed firsthand in three years as a process advisor for students and survivors—constant victim-blaming, hostile questioning practices, inconsistent training of panelists, acceptance of character witnesses, to name a few—would not, I suspect, be of interest to Pepper Hamilton. They were not of interest to Wesleyan’s Title IX Officer when I raised them at the time. The “checks and balances” and sparse appeals system are no help to a survivor who’s told her rapist gets to stay on campus because she was wearing a pretty dress that night and his buddy says he’s a good guy.