Seton Hall University, Protect Pirates NOW

Seton Hall University, Protect Pirates NOW

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Dear Dean Van Norman, Ms. Toni Hindsman, and the whole of the Seton Hall University community,

It is with deep frustration and sadness that we feel the need to write this letter.

We are Protecting Pirates. We are a group of students, alumni, parents of students, members of the South Orange community, and other members of the university community who share a common bond. This bond is an immense concern over the aptitude and willingness of the Title IX office to provide the best quality resources to student survivors of sexual violence. This letter seeks to address those concerns and bring this important conversation into the spotlight where it belongs.

Not only is the endeavor of reporting one's assault to CAPS, the Title IX office, or another faculty member intimidating in itself, too many students who choose to make a report are inadequately supported upon their decision to do so. This is apparent through our endeavor to collect testimonials from students about their experiences, as we've heard multiple accounts from individuals who chose to report their assailants or otherwise sought out assistance and were effectively retraumatized in the process. Agents of Seton Hall University are quick to claim that instances of sexual assault and misconduct are treated with the utmost seriousness, when in reality, the students whose cases have been handled by administration are unlikely to echo this claim. If it is believed truly by the administration that these cases are dealt with extreme care, conversations must be had about this. Many members of the student population are aware of Seton Hall's stained reputation in regard to the university protecting members of the community who display predatory behavior. We have witnessed too much light banter among friends about how Seton Hall University is a safe school for rapists. We have been told too many times by the women who attend this institution that they are perpetually uncomfortable, whether it is at the gym, in their classroom, or in their own residence hall. We have heard too many stories about how our friends felt confined to their dorm rooms because they knew their rapist was walking around on campus, and they were terrified of running into them. There should not be a Seton Hall fraternity house that is affectionately referred to as the "Rape House." Pretending there is not a problem does not eliminate the problem. The events unfolding as a result of Emily Archibald speaking out about her assailant are emblematic pervasive tendency of Seton Hall University to disregard predatory behaviors in an effort to preserve its image.

The students involved in our movement recently had the pleasure of connecting with Emily Archibald. In learning about her experiences and how she chose to speak out about them, we observed her wild intelligence and extreme concern towards those who have interacted with her rapist since she was attacked, and for those whose cases were treated similarly by administration since she made faculty aware of her assailant's predacious behavior. We wish that Emily could have connected with us under better circumstances. Perhaps our student members would have met her organically on campus had she not felt the need to withdraw from the university due to the poor response to her allegations and mental health troubles which emerged as a proximate result.

In speaking with Emily about her experiences, we were struck by two facets of her story in particular. Firstly, when Emily chose to report her rape, she was actively discouraged from going forward with an investigation as the result would "probably not turn up in your (Emily's) favor." While Emily made was made aware of every route available to her in seeking justice, it is highly inappropriate and unethical to attempt to dissuade a student from the pursuit of an investigation. Second, after Emily informed administration about her rape and the identity of her rapist, he was allowed to keep his job as a Resident Assistant. Following this, he was promoted to the HRA position, which allowed him to maintain access to three dormitories. Seton Hall University knowingly bestowed the master key to three residence halls upon a student reasonably suspected of committed rape. Emily also informed us that she learned from current students that the Housing Department was perfectly aware of the allegations against her assailant, as he alluded to these allegations in communicating with his residents about whether they were comfortable speaking with him. Despite knowledge of these allegations, he was still permitted to work on campus. Not only this, he was still in charge of the safety and well-being of other students until his resignation. Students who have allegations of harassment, stalking, assault, or rape against them should never be put into, and allowed to maintain, positions of influence on campus.

It is appalling to know that an administrator discouraged a survivor from seeking justice, as it is appalling to know that a student with allegations against him was permitted to maintain his position as a campus employee. We are not alone in our contentions with the university's actions. At the time of our writing this letter, over 4,000 people have signed the petition circulated by Emily Archibald seeking change to university policy and the dismissal of Resident Assistants who have No Contact Orders filed against them on the basis of sexual harassment, assault, or sexual violence.

Our Demands:

We want our concerns to be taken seriously. Further, we want our demands to be taken seriously. First, we demand that faculty members take accountability. Discouraging survivors from going forward with a campus investigation or a criminal investigation is not just unethical-it is a glaring violation of Title IX. Not only do we know that Emily was discouraged from requesting an investigation, we know that another student was told that "There is a difference between rape and regretting something," upon explaining that they were raped to administration. These words are from you, Dean Van Norman. We want you to apologize. And we want this apology to be followed by your resignation. This is a blatant attempt to invalidate the experience of a survivor and discourage an investigation. Concerning further Title IX violations, we know that survivors have not been properly informed of their rights, that survivors are not informed of all supportive and accommodative measures available to them upon reporting, that survivors are not informed of medical resources available, and we have reason to believe that assailants are approached by administrators in the event that an investigation is pending and told that no consequences will incur if they simply withdraw. You told students at a town hall meeting last month that your hands were tied when it comes to supporting survivors. We know that your hands are not tied-you are tying them yourselves. It is necessary for you to take accountability in order for the university community to feel protected and move forward.

Further, No Contact Orders, being the only university option advertised to survivors to lessen the risk of interactions with their rapists, are wholly inadequate. They may suffice for cases wherein two students do not get along, but they are not suitable to implement on the bases of harassment, stalking, assault, or rape. Other institutions offer No Contact Orders with tiers, meaning that different NCOs are appropriate for particular circumstances. A new NCO which prioritizes the needs of students requesting assistance on the basis of harassment, stalking, assault, or rape must be made available. This NCO should prioritize the needs of the individual requesting it for their personal safety. These NCOs should be advertised promptly to those who have currently filed NCOs against others due to the aforementioned reasons. Further, civil restraining orders must be advertised as an option to survivors who do not wish to pursue an investigation on or off campus.

Third, campus employees with reasonable allegations of physically harming others against them must be properly investigated. This demand falls under Title IX adherence, but we feel it requires special attention because of how much access campus employees, such as Resident Assistants, maintain to dormitories and information about resident students. A complainant's involvement in an investigation is not necessary for investigations to occur. It is the responsibility of the university to investigate all alleged perpetrators to ensure the safety of the campus community. Unwillingness to investigate alleged rapists if the survivor does not choose to be involved with an investigation is negligent, as this lack of action puts the entire student body at risk.

Fourth, a review board must be implemented so that students and faculty members have a voice in the process of hiring candidates for the Title IX roles at the university. Many professors have qualifications in the realms of sexual violence and, as you know, many students have been personally affected by this issue. Thus, these individuals deserve to have a say in the matter of who ought to be handling cases and advertising valuable resources to the student community.

We hope that this letter, in conjunction with Emily's petition, leads to meaningful dialogue between the student body and administration about protecting survivors of sexual violence. Previous attempts to have dialogue with faculty members have not been fruitful. For this reason, we did not see collaboration as a viable option-performative efforts to appease students will no longer suffice. As opposed to demonstrating a willingness to implement student feedback, faculty has attempted to communicate what the university has to offer survivors with an apparent unwillingness to enhance these offerings. As clients of the university, student survivors deserve better.


Protecting Pirates

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