Open Letter

We are currently seeking signatures from Haverford students and from the broader community. Sign the open letter through our petition at change.org.

To the Deans and Haverford College Community:

As students at Haverford with a commitment to social justice, we cannot continue to ignore the failures of social justice for sexual violence survivors on this campus. In listening to the stories of student survivors at Haverford, we have come to recognize that our community–students, faculty, and administrators–has not thus far effected meaningful change around issues of rape and sexual assault. 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. We want to discuss two parts of the issue, procedural and cultural, because both need to be addressed in order to create a community where the values of trust, concern, and respect extend into considerations of sexuality and sexual violence.

To this end, we call attention to the procedural breakdowns that foster a hostile environment for survivors and their allies. Furthermore, we point to the need for a cultural shift around issues of sexuality, and the potential for policy change in this shift.

We are especially concerned by: classroom dynamics and administrative practices that force survivors to “out” themselves; non-compliance with laws designed to protect student safety and the rights of survivors; and a campus culture where getting enthusiastic consent is not the norm.

We call on you, the Deans, to enact the following policy changes:

  • We call for education to prevent sexual assault before it happens, without perpetuating myths around sexual assault (e.g., all survivors are women, all rapists are men; alcohol causes sexual violence). We request the following:
    • full, guaranteed funding for Speak About It to return to campus every Customs Week;
    • complete preventative and active bystander training for all incoming freshmen, transfer students, and Customs Folk;
    • preventative and active bystander training for all returning students.
  • We call for use of language that acknowledges agency (“survivor,” not “victim”), particularly in the context of official panels or talks, in academic discussions, and in orientation for incoming freshmen.
  • We call for updates and improvements to all official sexual violence literature, including:
    • full compliance with the Clery Act and Title IX;
    • survivor-friendly language that does not assume gender, sexuality, or victimhood;
    • active bystander education;
    • a discussion of all factors potentially involved in sexual assault in addition to alcohol;
    • an introduction to enthusiastic consent.
  • We call for a shift in administrative priorities emphasizing the protection of students’ physical and emotional well-being over the institution’s legal liability.
  • We call for a full-time staff position to be created for a Gender Education Advisor, corresponding to Karen Henry at Swarthmore’s Gender Education Office, who would be familiar with Title IX and an advocate for survivor’s rights.  The search committee for this position should include at least one student representative from the women’s center and one from SOAR, as well as two other student representatives.
  • We call for serious, substantial student input in these and other changes to sexual misconduct policies in the form of a sexual assault advisory committee. The committee should be comprised of students, faculty, and administrators to involve all elements of the Haverford community and bring accountability and transparency to the process.
  • We call for a President committed to culture and policy change, as listed but not limited to the above.

We call on you, the faculty and students, to support the following practices:

  • We call for academic discussions of sexual violence that recognize there may be survivors present.
  • We call for “trigger warnings” to make others aware that sensitive issues, such as sexual violence, will brought up in class, readings, or coursework. “Trigger warnings” help survivors preserve anonymity if they so choose and also reduce the risk of flashbacks and re-traumatization. Because class discussions can take unexpected turns, we support survivors in their right to walk out of class when necessary.
  • We call for continued sensitivity, responsibility, and respect in academic considerations of sexual violence.
  • We call for the use of “survivor” in place of “victim” in discussions of sexual violence.

We call on you, the community, to commit to the following standards:

  • We call for protection for survivors from hostile environments.
  • We call for a culture where active bystanders and explicit, enthusiastic consent are the norm.
  • We call for respect for anonymity in both academic and social situations.
  • We call for valued listening to student survivors who wish to share their stories.

We the undersigned urgently call for the above changes and pledge our commitment to effecting justice for all members of the Haverford Community.

Sign the letter now!

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