Tag Archives: scott backer

Petition Calls for the Wesleyan Administration to Admit Mishandling of Sexual Misconduct Cases

“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.

Banners on Move Out Day Call for Rejection of Sexual Predators

Content warning: This article discusses issues of sexual assault involving current and former Wesleyan students, faculty and staff. 

It has been more than 24 hours since keys were due to ResLife for all who aren’t seniors or people who are working for senior week. Campus is much quieter and there are 96% fewer parents on campus today than there were yesterday.

In anticipation of the frenzy of move out day, a collection of students have taken this time to bring light to some of the issues surrounding cases of sexual assault at Wesleyan. At several prominent locations around campus (Music House, Community Engagement House, WestCo, and Hewitt), banners were hung reading “Reject Sexual Predators Emboldened by Institutional Power.”

[CONTENT WARNING] Scott Backer Arrested in West Hartford for Soliciting Minor on Yik Yak

Content warning: This posts discusses sexual assault/predatory behavior towards minors and contains images/video of Scott Backer

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Former Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer was arrested today in West Hartford for soliciting sexual conduct with a minor over Yik Yak. The Hartford Courant reported the arrest and Fox61 confirmed that the Scott Backer arrested was indeed the same Scott Backer that was fired from Wesleyan after the university learned from the Boston Globe that he had previously been fired from Vermont Academy for sexual misconduct.

Disorientation Spring 2017: A Guide to Campus Activism

disospring2017

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:

University Plans to Conduct Title IX Assessment With Victim Rights Law Center

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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:

Plans Underway for Creation of Gender Resource Center

“I think it’s a starting point. Even with the center, it will hopefully be an immediate resource that people can turn to and will be a lot more reliable than the administration has been in the past.” – Justina Yam ’19

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The creation of a Gender Resource Center has been a long time coming at Wesleyan. Students have been lobbying for identity-based resource centers as far back as 1969, when a group of students demanded the university create cultural center dedicated to black students. In the 1980s the first iteration of a gender-based center emerged in the form of a Women’s Resource Center at 190 High Street (now the University Organizing Center). Unfortunately the center had a touch and go existence. Within two decades of its creation, the center dissipated, went through a period of revival, and dissipated again. Here is some of that recent history and the current status of establishing a permanent Gender Resource Center at Wesleyan:

President Roth Sends Yet Another ‘Campus Update,’ on Transparency, Title IX, Equity and Inclusion

8Over 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.

Prefrosh Open House: A Day of Student Protest

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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.

Guest Post: An Open Letter to President Roth

“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.”

Roth at the forum on Monday

Roth at a forum on need-blind admissions in November 2012.

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.

A No Sense World

“In a few weeks or months from now perhaps I’ll be jaded again and be engrossed in improving my own life.”

2007 San Diego Fires. Photo Attributed to Sate Farm (Some Rights Reserved).

This is a short personal piece that reflects on grief and the process of choosing how to react to a no sense world. For those that aren’t familiar with Kamo no Chomei, he was a medieval Japanese writer (1155-1216) that wrote about his own (imperfect) ways of coping with the political and natural chaos around him.

The tragic world Chomei tried to escape from in medieval Japan is a lot smaller today. Over the past year I have taken solace in reports that suffering and extreme poverty are at historical lows in our human history. Following the Facebook posts of the not so humble Mark Zuckerberg there are moments of hope and elation that progress is being made. Like Chomei often noted about change, these positive feelings are cyclical and temporary. The river keeps flowing and the houses keep burning. The knowledge of good does not diminish the huge amount of suffering that still exists and lately I’ve felt it hard not to be emotionally impacted by world news and readings from my classes. There have been times that the impact of truly empathizing with the experiences of people in historical stories and art have been attractive. I wondered if maybe—just maybe—this practice were widespread then history wouldn’t be so cyclical. And so this semester I decided to try it out, and well, it couldn’t feel worse.