Administration issues plans to address sexual misconduct on campus
President M. Lee Pelton told the student body on April 22 that he will form a working group of students, faculty, and senior administrators in Fall 2019 to examine current practices surrounding sexual misconduct, according to an emailed statement.
The email comes after the Emerson College Police Department removed eight signs from campus walls that accused at least two students of sexual misconduct, according to Associate Dean for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp. Four days earlier, an unidentified individual, or individuals, posted a list of more than 12 students accused of sexual misconduct onto Little Building’s Boylston Street scaffolding on April 18. Facilities Management covered up the list with black paint the same day.
On Monday, signs were posted in the Walker Building, the Piano Row residence hall, the Paramount residence hall, and outside of the Colonial residence hall and the Little Building. ECPD Chief Robert Smith said campus officers removed signs from the Ansin building and the Paramount Center.
“They were postings that didn’t have the seal on the bottom authorizing them, so we took them down,” Smith said in a phone interview.
It is uncertain whether signs in other campus buildings remain posted.
One flyer taped to Little Building’s scaffolding on Monday read “Parents: Looking for a safe, welcoming college environment for your kids? Skip Emerson, we protect abusers.” Another sign, posted at the entrance of the Paramount Center, accused the college of not addressing former Emerson student Sara Tedesco’s Title IX case in 2014.
“Sara Tedesco’s rape was swept under the rug. And Emerson allowed it,” the sign read.
Tedesco, former Emerson student Jillian Doherty, and one other student filed a joint complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in 2013 regarding how the school handled their respective sexual assault cases.
In the emailed statement, Pelton said that he understands some students feel the college mishandled cases of sexual misconduct. The President also wrote that he will arrange opportunities for students to meet with him this week to discuss issues of sexual misconduct in detail.
“While I support any and all efforts to improve or even reform our current responses to sexual assault, I am also mindful that the public posting of the names of students indiscriminately lumped together incidents whose specific facts, circumstances and situations varied, which could not be known to all who read the postings,” the president wrote. “This lumping together, without the benefit of specificity, painted those named with a very broad and potentially misleading brush.”
Freshman Diana Troper said she supports whoever is posting the names around campus.
“I think it takes a lot of guts to do that. I’m really happy that girls are coming forward and speaking out for themselves because if they don’t, no one else will,” Troper said in an interview. “I hope there are some consequences for the people named.”
She said she thinks the college needs to take stronger action to make students feel safer on campus, as the response from Pelton has not been enough.
“It’s insane how the school is not doing much about it,” she said.
Muurisepp said he became aware of the signs around 12 p.m. and doesn’t know if the college will investigate who posted the signs.
“Students have the right to express how they’re feeling,” he said in an interview. “We want to work with them on the best ways to do that, for all parties involved. All of us at the college are here for the students and we want to make sure we are supporting them and giving them the resources they need.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Anissa Gardizy, Belen Dumont, and Chris Van Buskirk contributed reporting to this article.