On Sunday evening there was a candlelight vigil for survivors of sexual assault on campus outside of the board of trustees dinner. I was one of the students in attendance: standing in solidarity with survivors, as well as seeking change.
We were, and remained, a peaceful group — standing holding our posters and candles at the exit of Booth. We engaged with many of the trustees and other guests who exited the event, thanking them for taking our literature and wishing them a “good evening.” We had many friendly conversations with the trustees and others when they came and engaged us — that was until a peer of mine was verbally accosted by a member of the board of trustees.
Once one trustee found out that we were standing in solidarity with survivors his tone became fierce, and he began to act and speak toward my peer that in a manner that only can be described as bullying. My peer was left shaking as fellow students and professors came to her flank to support her, but even with reinforcements arriving the bullying did not end.
The trustee continued to berate my peer, myself and an Occidental professor; not allowing for us to finish our sentences and yelling over us. Completely dismissing the fact that 65 percent of sexual assaulters are not expelled by asking for us to present him with specific names, which would have not only been unethical, but also illegal. He referred to my peer as a “child” and to a Ph.D’ed professor as a “young lady,” at one point even directing her to go seek professional mental health services because of her support for survivors. The interaction became more tense when the two of the Trustees, rolled their eyes when the professor stated, “these are people’s stories, people’s lives.”
All this is only representative of the attitude that the board of trustees and the administration of our college have toward survivors of sexual assault — and all who stand in solidarity with them. They dismiss the stories and facts we present toward them, citing faux administrative change and hollow new positions.
The attitude of those in power at this school is toxic, dismissive and disgusting. Students, professors and members of the Oxy community should never be bullied or vilified for their personal experiences, or where and who they stand with on campus. Sunday night not only proved to me that the powers that be need to change, but also that the Occidental community supports one another — and we can and will become stronger and better, only if change occurs from the top down.
(Sophomore, sociology and politics)
In the April 9 Oxy Weekly, Board of Trustees President Chris Calkins suggested that Oxy’s sexual assault issues have been effectively fixed, and pledged support for President Veitch’s leadership. This is an effective denial of the experiences of 52 students, faculty, administrators, and staff who report that the college has seriously mishandled sexual assault/rape cases.
The problems have not been fixed. The changes enacted in the past year have been cosmetic, we address each change individually:
“Completely revised policies and procedures.” We moved from a short, watered down policy to a 61-page watered down policy that includes a fuzzy definition of physical “consent,” fails to lay out sanctions for each violation, and does not include an expulsion policy for students found responsible for rape. From 2009 to 2013, only 35% of students found responsible for sexual assault/rape at Oxy were expelled.
“Hired a full-time survivor advocate and a full-time Title IX coordinator.” But the adjudication process is still not in compliance with federal Title IX law (adjudication going well beyond the 60 day recommendation from the DOE, failure to report the rape of a minor to law enforcement, survivors not being told of their right to go to local law enforcement).
“Established a 24/7 hotline.” After hours, the new hotline rings through to a national hotline, not an Oxy staffer trained to accommodate the needs of survivor; 24-hours in name only.
“Significantly increased mandatory preventive education programs for all students.” Mandatory orientation is not an effective deterrent to sexual assault/rape because Oxy’s definition of consent is fuzzy and sanctions are not clear or universal.
“Brought in two of the country’s top experts to help evaluate our progress.” Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez are known for managing crises and minimizing liability, not minimizing sexual assault/rape. They avoided speaking with survivors and federal complainants during their many visits to campus, and, like the Board, they cannot possibly deny the experiences of 52 complainants without even speaking to them.
The Board of Trustees should follow in the footsteps of the Dartmouth trustees who just unanimously passed a stricter sexual assault policy. President Veitch has not offered to move forward on this issue in good faith. Will you?
For the school to move we advise that the Board of Trustees and administration:
Revise the 61-page policy to be more accessible to students;
Reinstate verbal consent as the standard;
Reinstate an expulsion policy for all students found responsible for sexual assault/rape;
Establish an orientation that emphasizes the verbal consent and expulsion policies;
Establish a trained, independent office to adjudicate sexual assault proceedings;
Keep all adjudications within the 60 days recommended by the Department of Education; and
Publish an annual report with information about the disposition of sexual assault cases.
(Sophomore, sociology and politics)
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On behalf of Concerned Members of the Oxy Community