[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.
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.
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:
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.
Earlier today, Buzzfeed writer Katie J.M. Baker posted an article about how students found guilty of sexual assault by their universities are hurt by the judicial system too. The article features an unnamed male Wesleyan student now suing the college under Title IX. According to the lawsuit, which can be read in full here, the student is suing:
…due to the actions, omissions, errors, and the flawed procedures, and/or negligence and overall failure to provide Plaintiff with an expected standard of due process, concerning the wrongful allegations of sexual misconduct made against John Doe, a male, graduating senior student at Defendant Wesleyan in good standing, and a respected member of the Wesleyan Student Assembly and a fraternity brother, with an otherwise unblemished record.
The article also makes it clear that the unidentified male student is not suing the women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault, but rather suing the university itself for a poorly conducted hearing and lack of due process.
From Rachel Verner ’15:
The Title IX Student Advisory Committee wants your feedback! We’ll be hosting an all-campus forum to discuss what changes students want made to Wesleyan’s current Title IX Policy/Procedure, with a specific focus on the Sexual Misconduct Policy. The student input gained from the session will be used to inform policy changes that will be made for the Spring semester.
Check out the Facebook event for more information!
Time: 7-9 PM
Place: Daniel Family Commons
This past Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling allows for the passage for similar measures in seven other states. The New York Times has an informative set of infographics showing the effects of such bans on affirmative action for minorities throughout the country.
Highlighting the results from a recent study on public college finances, Slate explores the increasing privatization of public colleges. Today, public university students cover almost half the cost of their own educations, on average.
A Brown University student, Lena Sclove, has begun an activist movement to make the campus a safer space for her and other survivors of sexual assault.