Students and faculty brought their grievances to the table at Tuesday’s town hall meeting to discuss the long-awaited Pepper Hamilton report. President Jonathan Veitch and Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones led the meeting while Loyal Marymount Law School professor Laurie Levenson moderated.
“The goal today is to really talk about the implications of the report,” Veitch said. “It is a partial report, the beginning of a conversation, not the end of the conversation.”
Veitch noted three key points about the report in his opening statement. First, he emphasized the school’s increase in the number of resources offered to students and improvements to its policies and procedures on sexual assault. He also acknowledged that, despite this progress, there is more that needs to be done. Finally, he posited that sexual assault is an issue that has divided the campus.
“We have adopted a culture of resignation. We have learned to live with something instead of actively fighting,” Veitch said. “We need not to put the problem behind us, and we will be talking about sexual assault until that scourge has left our community.”
Jones echoed many of Veitch’s sentiments. She also pointed out that Occidental is still waiting for the government’s report from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which will provide more concrete feedback on how Occidental can improve its sexual assault policy.
“The OCR’s findings are critical. We don’t have control over when the OCR report will be released, but we can’t wait, so I will try to keep moving forward.”
Notecards and microphones were passed out so attendees could directly ask questions and make comments to Veitch and Jones.
Project S.A.F.E. member Amy Fluett (senior) offered positive input to the discussion. Fluett gave credit to Jones for her efforts to organize a student panel on the required online “Think About It” course. Fluett stated efforts like the panel and Project S.A.F.E.’s events would be beneficial for the Occidental community.
“It would be great to have students and staff work together,” Fluett said. “We encourage everyone to come to our trainings and education sessions.”
Other members of the audience expressed their concerns about consent and the new mandate that makes all faculty mandatory reporters. A handful of students and faculty gave feedback, which was largely negative, on the report.
One of the most vocal critics was Faculty Council Chair Nalsey Tinberg, who called the report both disappointing and unhelpful.
“This report was disappointingly late, and I take the report as an inference on what I experience every day,” Tinberg said.
Elizabeth Siebert (sophomore) expressed frustration with the town hall meeting itself, from the lack of advanced notice about the event to the administration’s lack of interaction with students and faculty outside of general meetings.
“I was lucky enough to hear about this event from an email this morning, but it was not publicized,” Siebert said. “This venue is not big enough to hold the Occidental community.”
At one point in the meeting, Jones said she did not know how students felt about consent, a concern Seibert responded to. She suggested that administrators hold more workshops and forums to increase their presence on campus and to understand the students better.
“Wanna know about it? Talk about it. Let’s have a forum,” Siebert said. “No wonder people see this issue as a matter of image control, the only time you hear about [Jones] is when you see an email saying that she has been appointed or a report has been published.”