Sexual Violence Panel takes emotional turn

Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

A panel on sexual violence took an emotional turn during the Q and A portion, when students expressed their shock and confusion that a sexual harassment lawsuit made against a current faculty member was not brought to their attention.

We as students give a great deal of time, money, effort to get our education [and] we should not be in an insecure environment whatsoever,” said one student in the audience, “and one day when I’m a mother, I will be damned if I send my children to a school where there is a predator.”

SCSU graduate, Wendy Wyler, filed a lawsuit against music professor, David Chevan, for sexual harassment in 2012. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and Wyler’s lawsuit against the university—for its handling of the situation—was dismissed over the summer on a technicality, according to Heidi Lockwood, professor of philosophy.

A technicality is a decision based only on a specific rule in law or rules and not on any other consideration.

Lockwood said she has been “explicitly told by administrators” to step down, to step back, to stop and to move on to “another area of concern.”

I myself experienced faculty-predator violence when I was a graduate student, so I feel strongly about the issue,” said Lockwood.

In recent news, UC Berkely professor and astronomer, Geoff Marcy, was found guilty of sexually harassing female students for nearly a decade. He resigned last Wednesday.

The panel, led by director of the women studies department, Trisha Lin, was held in room B121 of Engleman hall to discuss issues of sexual violence on campuses from a historical pretext, issues surrounding Title XI, and the resources Southern offers.

Title IX is a law that passed in 1972 that requires “gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.”

The panel featured Simona Sharoni, professor of women and gender studies, SUNY Plattsburgh, and co-founder of F.A.R. (Faculty Against Rape),  who focused on the importance of putting pressure on administrators and confronting them for mishandling issues like sexual assault.

I think it’s good that students are not trusting institutions,” said Sharoni, “it is up to those institutions to earn their trust. They owe it to students, they owe it to faculty, and we as faculty have to raise our voices to hold our institutions accountable.”

From a survivor’s perspective, Sharoni said mandated reporting can be problematic.

“I don’t think it’s helping the students because it deprives you of your right, and it deprives me of my ability to speak my mind and let you decide when you’re ready to go and report it,” said Sharoni.

Also on the panel was director of S.A.R.T. (Sexual Assault Resource Team), Catherine Christy, who shared some of the resources the campus provides students and discussed their rights as students.

“There are also a lot of campuses who do care about their students, and who do want to help end sexual violence, hold perpetrators accountable and support survivors so that those survivors can live their life the way they should—in an academic setting without fear, without a hostile environment,” said Christy,  “and those are pieces we need to talk about as well.”

Assistant professor of crime and justice at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Heather Turcotte, provided historical background on the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies in relation to educational institutions.

She described how the feminist movement garnered mobility and creating productive collectives outside of institutions to battle anti-gender discrimination.

Turcotte paralleled this example by stressing the importance of student-led work, and why it’s imperative for students to not solely depend on their school to see change.

“Be clear the Title IX coordinator works for the university, it does not work for you,” said Turcotte, “that position is not for you. That position is a legal position to ensure that the university is following legal rules and regulations and that is a big misunderstanding for students.”

Photo Credit: Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

HEADER PHOTO: From left to right: Director of Women’s Studies, Trisha Lin, Simona Sharoni, Catherine Christy, and Heather Turcotte.


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