Topic

Colleges and Universities

1,006 petitions

Update posted 2 hours ago

Petition to Dr. Geert ten Dam, Dr. Jet Bussemaker, Mr. Ard van der Steur, Mr. Mark Rutte

Justice for Emily: Help rape survivor fight university’s institutional abuse and cover-ups

Highlights:   A rape survivor encounters abuse and discrimination by a professor at the University of Amsterdam The university dismisses all of her complaints based on untruthful and slanderous testimonies Soon afterward, the same professor impersonates the dean and sends a letter to the student forbidding her from conducting her graduation fieldwork project While she is appealing against the decision, the university invalidates all of her earned academic credits, stating she has made no progress in her graduation project Without her academic credits, she will lose her student visa and has to leave the Netherlands. Therefore, the university can circumvent the accusations altogether. Imagine you send your daughter to study abroad. One year later, she comes back with rape trauma without a Master’s degree. After spending three years overcoming her ordeal, she goes back to school to complete her studies. However, her past is held against her, and she is abused and discriminated against relentlessly by her professor. When she plucks up all her courage to speak up, she is confronted with lies, cover-ups and retaliation by university staff. This is what has been happening to Emily (pseudonym). She is a Master’s student at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Five years ago, Emily had to give up her studies and leave the country due to rape trauma. In September 2014, she went back to Amsterdam to complete her degree. She decided not to let rape define her or dictate her future. She started the semester just like other students and did not ask for any special consideration. She did not share her past with her classmates in order to have a normal student life. Emily was happy to be back and continued working hard to successfully complete her studies. However, in October 2014, the director of her program (the only person who knew her from the previous time and who belittled and tormented her five years ago), approached her in class and made impudent and condescending comments about Emily’s private matters and health in front of her classmates. A few days later, Emily’s thesis supervisor informed her that the director had excluded her from a project because of “a concern for her wellbeing,” and she had to choose another one from other available projects. Emily felt utterly violated; she was not expecting a stranger to bring up her private matters, let alone tell her what she was allowed to do or not allowed to do based on her personal painful past that she had never consented to sharing. Her supervisor stated “I fully sympathise [with] you feeling you’re not treated like other students and feeling offended by that. At the same time, however, I also understand that what has happened has not only shaped you, but also UvA staff and that they do give [sic, recte take] previous times into account.” Emily was never informed of any conditionalities when she was re-accepted into the Master’s program. The following week, the director of the program informed Emily that she was now allowed to participate in the project she was initially excluded from since budgetary issues were resolved. Now there was an additional position available. Realizing that her private information was not only inappropriately used, but also was exploited as a pretext for budgetary issues, she emailed her supervisor. She confirmed that the issue was indeed an administrative matter, stating “'using your rape experience against you for the sake of money' is not an accurate description of the decisions initially taken. Monetary issues played their part, but only b/c, in principle, the project had space for only two students. I.e. a decision had to be taken considering three students were interested.” After the series of events: 1. being publicly humiliated, 2. having her trauma exploited, and 3. being completely stripped of dignity and personal autonomy, Emily felt as though she was raped all over again. She filed complaints for harassment, privacy violations and discrimination. She specifically stated that she had never consented to disclosing her confidential information, let alone having it assessed or used for arbitrary and unilateral decisions by faculty members who had no medical qualifications. She requested that the university rectify the issues and ensure her that it would never happen again. In response to Emily’s complaints, the director relentlessly brought up Emily’s untruthful “mental problems” and undermined her credibility. The director claimed that Emily’s professors and classmates had reported that she had been “easily emotionally agitated” and expressed their concerns about her mental well-being at the beginning of the semester. The director used this story to justify her action in class. She claimed that she was not aware of the details of Emily’s private information, and therefore, was not capable of violating her privacy. She also claimed that there had never been a decision to exclude Emily from the project. Emily’s supervisor likewise testified that she had never told Emily that she had been excluded, and denied there had ever been such a decision. The University of Amsterdam officially supported all of the director’s claims and dismissed all of Emily’s complaints. Emily did not know what to believe after being told that her professors and classmates, behind her back, had reported her “mental problems”, which she herself had absolutely not been aware of. Moreover, Emily’s another professor, who had nothing to do with the complaints, showed up at the hearing in support of the director, thereby taking a stance against Emily, despite repeated pleas from Emily that the university handle the complaints confidentially and with sensitivity. Emily was also very puzzled by her supervisor’s testimony, especially since she had always shown sympathy for Emily’s trouble with the director. Furthermore, when Emily expressed her concern about her complaints putting her supervisor in a difficult position at the university, she responded “I would have no problems whatsoever.” Because Emily fully trusted her honesty, she believed this must have been some kind of mistake, and decided to ask her about the testimony. Her supervisor refused to explain and dismissed Emily from her supervision. After that series of events, Emily felt as though everyone was against her, and nobody would believe anything she would say. She felt completely isolated, powerless, worthless and hopeless. When she finally talked with her classmates in June 2015, they were completely shocked and assured her that they had never reported anything about her to the director. They had not noticed anything unusual about Emily, and besides, they would not have bothered to report anything to the director even if a new classmate had come off as different. They were never informed of or consented to their “testimony” which they had never provided. They also agreed that it would have been impossible for professors to pay attention to and observe one particular student among more than 30 students and determine her emotional state during the first few lectures. They signed to confirm that they had never reported anything about Emily, and also wrote supporting letters describing her with words such as: conscientious, hardworking, friendly, passionate, responsible and kind, and called her someone with integrity, diligence, respect, intelligence and empathy, and strongly asserted that the university’s claims had inconsistencies.   In July 2015, Emily received a letter from the dean of graduate school, informing her that she was not allowed to conduct any fieldwork project out of “a concern for her well-being”. Once again, she was denied her right to education based on her private matters that she had never confirmed, never consented to sharing or having assessed or used by faculty members. She lodged an appeal against this decision. In response, the dean apologized for her feelings and misunderstandings, but denied any wrongful acts or discrimination. When she inquired about the letter, he informally admitted that the letter had actually been written by the director while he was on vacation, and therefore, he had not even read or approved the letter. When Emily asked him why he would not formally state so and why the director was not held accountable, he explained that it would affect his secretary because she helped the director send the letter. Emily has been contending that the dean’s explanations and excuses for “his decision” are pointless and nonsense especially since he is merely a scapegoat who has been cluelessly held responsible for the director’s actions. He is not capable of explaining “his decision” because he never made the decision to begin with. Emily is continuing to demand the issues be rectified based on the whole truth, with integrity, accountability and transparency. In September 2016, the university invalidated all of Emily’s earned academic credits stating that she made no academic progress in the past year. Emily could not make academic progress because the director forbade her from progressing. Furthermore, she was in the process of appealing against the decision, which has been taking significant amount of time and is still ongoing because the dean has been talking nonsense and refusing to provide the whole truth. Without her academic credits, she will lose her student visa, and will have to leave the country. In my opinion, this is whistleblower retaliation, which enables the university to remove her from the country and get rid of the accusations altogether. During the whole ordeal, Emily has been obliged to continue paying her tuition fees (14700 euros per year) even though she has been denied the education that she has been paying for. On the other hand, the university staff has been continuing with their lives and work without consequences, as if Emily does not exist. As Emily’s friend, I find the whole situation outrageous beyond what words can describe. Instead of reflecting on and rectifying their actions, this “educational” institution has been doing what it takes to cover up their misconduct and circumvent responsibility. Their actions make a mockery of not only Emily’s courage but also of the whole Dutch education system, whose members work hard to maintain a high standard of institutional diligence and integrity. Moreover, Emily went back to study and focus on topics such as human rights and education. The inhumane attitude and behavior of her professors, whose specializations include education rights, children’s rights and gender equality has been the ultimate betrayal to Emily’s hopes and desires to learn anything from these “experts”. After brutal rape, abuse, discrimination, injustices and retaliation, Emily has been through enough. She overcame horrific trauma she had never wished for. She decided to get her life back by finishing her Master’s degree. She stood up for herself only to ask to be treated like a normal human being. She continues to fight for justice, truth and integrity because that is what she believes in and stands for. She has done nothing to be ashamed of. She deserves justice and the completion of her Master's degree in an environment where her fundamental rights are not violated by university staff. Therefore, with this petition, I formally request the following.   Requests The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Government of the Netherlands: Conduct an independent, thorough inquiry into Emily’s original complaints, the university’s subsequent cover-ups and retaliation, and hold individuals accountable for their misconduct Immigration and Naturalisation Service, Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands: Ensure that Emily will not lose her student visa until her graduation The University of Amsterdam: Retract the invalidation of Emily’s academic credits and exempt her from paying tuition until the ongoing situation is resolved   When I saw Emily just before she left for the Netherlands, she was very vibrant and thrilled to finally complete her Master’s degree. I want to see her return with her same happy face with her diploma. Please imagine Emily is you or your loved one. If you are willing to support Emily, please sign this petition. Thank you.  #enoughbsUvA

Rachel Weston
1,404 supporters
Update posted 7 days ago

Petition to Jonathan Chenette, Arlene Sabo, Marianne H. Begemann, J. William Strauss, Kim Squillace

Stop Vassar College from Killing our Deer on Vassar's Farm and Ecological Preserve!

  Twelve years ago, Vassar College, a private, coeducational, elite liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, NY, began a deer cull program to reduce the population of deer and "protect the health of the ecosystem" of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. This slaughter involves bringing sharpshooters to campus every winter break and killing dozens of deer, particularly females and fawns. This action has not been proven effective in reducing the deer population, utilizes illegal silencers to meet city sound ordinances, and is an inhumane approach to a more complex environmental issue. Many students and community members (represented by the group “Save Our Deer”) who love and appreciate the presence of our deer are dismayed by Vassar's disregard of the wishes of the community as well as the killing of natural wildlife. Vassar justifies the deer cull using dubious scientific evidence that the overabundance of deer hurts plant diversity. Vassar's wealth and influence over Poughkeepsie allow it to ignore the objections of concerned community members without the financial resources to fight against the institution. There is a multitude of reasons for the changing ecosystem of the Vassar ecological preserve: acid rain, insect damage, disease, forest fragmentation, pollutants, loss of soil fertility, animal browsing, invasive and other competing plant species, parasitic organisms, climatic and weather extremes, and over-development. A rise in the deer population only represents the lack of available land for the deer, caused by the growing city of Poughkeepsie. As a prestigious and "liberal" institution, Vassar should take the lead in promoting alternative scientific and ethical initiatives. More humane options include the use sterilization and immunocontraceptive techniques such as the PZP vaccine, which have been used effectively in other communities with an overabundance of deer, such as Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Additionally, methods as simple as fencing in areas where we do not want deer to forage could more efficiently and humanely allow for the regrowth of young trees and saplings. The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve is a space curated by human influence - rugby fields and farms dot the landscape. It is naive to believe that deer are responsible for the loss of diversity when humans are the primary intruders on the ecosystem. Vassar College should seek alternative actions that promote not only biodiversity but also preserve the lives of our valuable deer through peaceful coexistence.  

Ian Snyder
685 supporters
This petition won 1 year ago

Petition to University of Minnesota Board of Regents, President Kaler

We need affirmative consent now

tldr; Some of the Regents (President Kaler's bosses) want to delay implementation of the affirmative consent policy - or "yes means yes" - until after Welcome Week, meaning all our new students would be educated about the current consent policy only to have it change midyear. Currently, it is set to be implemented after July 16th. Sign this to tell them we need affirmative consent now. It can't wait until after September.___________In June of 2015, the University of Minnesota proposed changes to the Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Relationship Violence administrative policy after over 6 months of feedback from staff, administration, and students. The changes included a changed definition of consent being "mutually understood" to "affirmative consent" and added a detailed description of when consent can not be given. The policy creates the expectation of affirmative consent - or "yes means yes" - where we ask our partners if they'd like to engage in some form of sex and wait for them to say "yes" before proceeding.This policy language was requested to be reviewed, reviewed, and approved by the elected student government organization, and the new student government administration was elected by a 12% margin with a platform to change this policy in a student election with the largest turnout in a decade. The student body consensus was that this policy has broad support and it's the community standard we'd like to hold ourselves to. Today (go to 2:36:50), Regent Hsu of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents asked to postpone the policy**, saying "I believe we need to take a closer look at that until it gets implemented." This would require the policy to be postponed until after the September board meeting, after all of our new students have come to campus and participated in Welcome Week. By delaying the policy, we will forgo a clean implementation at the beginning of the academic year and risk attempting to educate people about two different policies and miss out on the optimal time frame to educate new and returning students. By turning this common practice into policy, we are establishing that this should be the rule and not the exception. We are providing a clarification to a previously ambiguous policy that did not clearly define what consent was – and more importantly, what it wasn't. By making this a policy, we are creating an avenue for more robust education and a dialogue about how we create a safe campus for everyone. And most importantly, by making this a policy we are challenging the dominant narrative that sex is something that belongs to one person and is taken by another. (We live in a society where sex is discussed as "taking/losing one's virginity" and "popping their cherry," which are perfect examples of the shift we need to see. Sex isn't something that you lose, take, or pop. Those are one way actions. They are things someone does to someone else and not things people do with each other. This is why we need this policy.)Waiting until September means we miss a prime window of opportunity to educate all of our new students at Welcome Week. It means that Greek organizations will not be able to plan their risk management curriculum in advance and will scramble to provide education to members about two different policies. Most importantly, this means three more months without the stronger protection for victim-survivors during the first months of school, months where the likelihood of being a victim of sexual assault is drastically higher than other times during the year. The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management has been recommending this policy for over 10 years. The University of St. Thomas has had this policy for over 10 years. The University of Iowa adopted it last year. The Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government recommended this policy for their campus. And there are countless others who already have this policy or have had this policy. This is not controversial, revolutionary, or anything other than common sense student safety. We need this policy to be implemented on schedule and not be delayed until after September. Please sign to show your support for affirmative consent now. Joelle StanglerUniversity of Minnesota Student Body President____________ For more information on what this policy means, read this article. Media inquiries: stang238@umn.edu**This policy is not required to be passed by the Board of Regents, as it is an administrative policy.

Joelle Stangler
1,692 supporters