Brianne Kane - Special to Southern News
SCSU alumni Wendy Wyler recently hosted a protest outside Earl Hall, where her and her fellow SCSUspeaks members demanded that, “David Chevan be entirely removed from Southern Connecticut State University and no longer associated with the university in any respect.” A strong demand for a small group of students, however their growing support is obvious in the roar of applause that followed this particular demand. The “laundry list” of demands was read aloud, greeted with thunderous applause and cheers of agreement from the approx. 100 students who stood outside Earl with cardboard signs and a mission: support Wendy in making sure SCSU and Professor Chevan are held accountable.
So what exactly happened? Professor David Chevan, music professor at SCSU, sexually harassed Wendy Wyler in March of 2011 while she was a student in his class. After Wyler came forward, SCSU launched an investigation which determined that Professor Chevan had indeed violated Title IX.
Title IX essentially “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding” which, as a public university, SCSU receives regularly. Once Wyler had come forward, more victims started coming forward to Wendy, one even said “When you joined the class we knew you’d be next…I’m so sorry, we should’ve warned you.” How can a professor continue to work at Southern Connecticut State University if before joining his class a young woman needed to be “warned” about his behavior?
Wyler admitted that she has received lots of mail concerning this case, and they seem to fall into three categories: supporters urging her to fight on, previous victims/survivors, or hate mail urging her to stop. Luckily, two out of three wins! “The people who were traumatized by this professor were victims by him first, then by SCSU after…” said Wendy during the protest, because has she urged in her speech: she is not alone, she is fighting the good fight for other students too frightened to step forward. As one protester, Kristiane Hall said, “A lot of things go unreported [because of fear]…its even more intimidating when an entire bureaucracy is the fearmonger.” Which succinctly gets to the point: what Professor Chevan did was wrong, but what SCSU continues to do by allowing him to conduct classes as if nothing happened speaks to the greater issue of SCSU ignoring sexual harassment. Wyler filed a lawsuit against Professor David Chevan as well as one against Southern Connecticut State University. Although she was unable to give details, she urged supporters that although her case with Chevan was settled, her case with SCSU was still strong.
The few staff that attended the protest by skirting the outside of the crowd, talking in circles quietly as everyone dispersed, but no visible, believable support could be seen. Catherine Kristy of the Women’s Center on campus, as well as a victim advocate on the SART team (Sexual Assault Response Team) said she has “always been supportive” of Wyler’s cause although she is not directly involved in it. Even Christopher Piscitelli from the Office of Judicial Affairs attended the rally, from a distance, saying that as part of the SART team himself all he could do to help Wyler would be to “pass it on” to the appropriate people since his office only deals with student-student cases.
Dr. Heidi Lockwood of the philosophy department at SCSU was the only staff member to vocalize her support by giving a short speech in which she insisted that Wyler had the courage she didn’t when years ago she was harassed by her advisor while a student at MIT. Wendy in her speech even quoted University President, Mary A. Papazian in saying, “SCSU is a place where we give student every opportunity to acquire a first class education with a global vision, and an enlightened, compassionate, supportive and compassionate environment” from Papazian’s inaugural speech in Sept. 2012. To which Wendy rhetorically replied, “President Papazian, where is your compassion and where is your support?” President Papazian did not attend the rally, but the mood of uncomfortability was still evident as Professor Chevan could be seen from his office window throughout the protest.
Wyler described her experience of looking for help with SCSU as, “when I went to the university for help…they reduced me to insignificance,” repeating some of the excuses she heard from university officials, such as “justifiable experience,” “part of student life,” and “men are just like this.” When Wendy finally met President Papazian, two years after the incident, Papazian said, “But you graduated and you’re fine now.” This continuous act of brushing it under the rug must stop. Wendy said herself that she, “walked into that storage room because Professor Chevan told [her] [she] could trust him,” but when that bond of student-teacher was shattered in that storage closet, SCSU officials heard nothing.
Wendy Wyler is trying not to fight this alone, but she needs support! SCSU Speaks is helping in every way they can, one of which is helping come up with a list of demands for the University as well as their Title IX event held in the Greco Seminar room, D227 at 5 p.m. Read the demands, listen to the speeches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUmyJGbjsGg) and remember “we cannot battle sexual harassment or abuse alone”.
SCSU Speaks For…
1. We demand that David Chevan be entirely removed from Southern Connecticut State University and no longer associated with the university in any respect.
2. We demand that SCSU issue a public apology on behalf of its failure to take appropriate action against David Chevan and all Title IX violations.
3. We demand that the sexual harassment policy, in addition to the existing procedure for reporting sexual harassment, must be reformed by a committee composed of outside consultants and equal representation of students and faculty.
4. We demand that all university employees (including department heads/chairs and professors) must be required to report any knowledge of sexual harassment directly to the Title IX ambassador.
5. We demand all SCSU undergraduate and graduate students, in addition to university employees, receive mandatory, comprehensive sexual harassment training.
6. We demand all survivors and reporters must be protected from retaliation after reporting, in accordance to guidelines in the April 2013 Dear Colleague Letter.
7. We demand approval for a university supported, student-directed survivor support organization.
8. We demand prohibition of all nonconsensual and consensual relationships between students and any university staff (faculty, any employees).