Us vs. Them

There have been many concerns about our perceived hostility towards the administration. Maybe to some extent we deserve it. We are angry and frustrated about sexual assault policy here, and we have been directing our comments primarily to the administration because they are the ones with enough power to change it. We have acknowledged the progress made in sexual assault policy at Haverford both in our communications with the deans and in our open letter:

While we appreciate the many efforts of individuals and groups to reduce instances of sexual violence and to change the tone of discussion, we recognize the importance of institutional memory in creating a lasting cultural shift.

Our anger and frustration stems from our personal experiences with the policies, and specifically where the policies break down or the practices fail to live up to the ideals. That is where we see room for change and improvement.

I do want to go through some common concerns, though, to get everybody on the same page:

  1. We did send the open letter to the administration (deans, president, etc.) before releasing it to campus. They are expecting a hard copy of the petition with signatures.
  2. We are especially concerned about institutional memory, as mentioned in the open letter section quoted above. While we really do value informal responses to sexual violence on campus, we know that individuals eventually leave, customs folk change, and priorities are different because of that. We wanted to both formalize our own concerns about policy and push for concrete changes that will last beyond the tenure of any particular person.
  3. This is not the first time that sexual violence policy has come up at Haverford. In 2009-2010, a Go! boards thread about the college’s mishandling of sexual violence came out around the same time as a false allegation of assault. A student-run policy working group formed and presented recommendations, but the majority of those recommendations were only partially implemented–if they were implemented at all. There was talk of policy and outreach working groups led by the administration, but (as far as we know) neither met to the point of being able to make recommendations. The second policy working group only met once. While there have been improvements to the sexual violence response, it is still far from measuring up to our ideals.
  4. We are committed to working on these issues long-term. We’re not putting up posters and leaving people to speculate. We’re not sending an open letter and expecting unequivocal and immediate implementation of our policy recommendations. We really want to have a conversation about how to improve policies, and we’re very open to feedback and an exchange of ideas. The idea of having an open letter may in itself seem hostile, but we recognize that the administration has limited time and resources. We are looking for solidarity and support in the form of signatures on our open letter to make it clear that time and resources need to be devoted to issues of sexual violence on campus, and that sexual violence policy is not just relevant to members of SOAR. At the time of this writing, there are 342 signatures on our open letter at change.org.
  5. Students are not the only survivors. Approximately 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime (stigmas around male survivors make the estimates much less reliable). That includes faculty, staff, and even administrators. Our letter is addressed “To the Deans and the Haverford Community” because we believe that these issues must be taken seriously by the entire campus. Comments by students may trigger faculty or staff. Comments by faculty may trigger administrators. We want to raise awareness and thoughtfulness around issues of sexual violence for everyone–not just for students, not just for administrators, not just for faculty, not just for staff.

We know there are many other concerns floating around about our interactions with the administration, but those are the major ones we wanted to address. As far as I know, we have approved every post and comment that we’ve received. As long as they continue to maintain trust, concern, and respect, we’ll continue to approve them.

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