Editorial: An exercise in broken trust

By Editorial Board

At issue: Changes to Emerson’s Title IX policy

Our take: Why are we spinning our wheels?

Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), reporting sexual assault and harassment at Emerson is an onerous and ongoing process. The sexual misconduct policy and process is dense and confusing. It’s hard enough to talk about trauma with your friends and family, and dealing with months of stodgy bureaucracy doesn’t help the matter.

Here’s a quick and simplified breakdown of how it works: When someone reports sexual misconduct against another student, a Title IX investigator examines the evidence and interviews both parties and relevant witnesses. If the investigator confirms that the accused student is guilty of sexual misconduct, the case gets sent to a sanctions panel, which then determines the appropriate disciplinary action. The whole process can take over three months.

It might sound simple, but we’re leaving out a whole lot of legalese. The full explanation of the process is over 4,500 words long, and that’s less than one-fifth of the sexual misconduct policy. It’s long and complicated for good reason—there shouldn’t be room for ambiguity with a topic like this—but it’s certainly not very accessible.

Since the start of the summer, 10 administrators and staff members have been working on reviewing and revising the policy. This process has been delayed for months, and students are in the dark.

The question remains why the administration continues to prolong revisions to the school’s Title IX policy. Sexual assault and discrimination based on gender are two matters that should never be taken lightly. Yet despite Emerson’s repeated claims to have zero-tolerance for both of these issues, reparations to its own policy addressing these exact problems continue to be pushed aside. Over the course of six months, the full committee has met roughly five times to devote any legitimate attention to resolving this problem—a problem that directly affects the well-being and safety of its own students.

In the past few weeks, two Title IX lawsuits against the college have been functionally dismissed. When the Emerson administration evades questioning (as our editor-in-chief recently encountered), the student body cannot help but make assumptions about the secrecy of the Title IX process. It almost appears as though the administration does not want to deal with sexual assault cases, or hopes to push them off long enough that students will graduate or drop their case. It also seems, especially given the case of Piper Clark, that Emerson buys into a culture of victim-blaming. Though these implications are sinister, and far from what any Emerson student can hope to be true, they are what springs to the fore in the absence of other information. When such basic processes remain nebulously dark, one cannot help but assume the worst.

It is imperative that we listen to the voices of victims who choose to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault. With awareness comes accountability, and if our student body is invested in the evolution of our college’s Title IX policy, it will be difficult for administrators to postpone reform. Furthermore, our administration needs to make the reassessment of Title IX policy a priority—it’s that simple. It shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge for student reporters to ask involved administrators questions about campus policies that have a tremendous effect on the health and well-being of students—it makes sense to keep individual narratives private, but general policy should be public.

So we’re going to stay vigilant. We’re going to keep asking questions, be they repetitive, inconvenient, or outright uncomfortable—because the student body has the right to know.

Editor-in-chief Nathanael King fact-checked this editorial but did not otherwise edit or contribute to it.