I Am Student X: How Many Of Us Are?
A Follow-up to "A System Is Broken": An Experience With The Title IX Process
I am Student X. I wrote the anonymous Voices article, “The System Is Broken”, last semester about my experience with the Title IX process at Swarthmore. I wanted to capture the system in its failure, unbiased by extraneous associations tied to my name. I felt that releasing it under anonymity would allow me a better sense of agency, respect, and control over my own narrative. What was also wonderful about anonymity was that you didn’t know me. If we passed each other on Magill Walk, stood next to each other at Sharples, or studied next to each other in Cornell, you wouldn’t think twice. If you were my friend and didn’t know otherwise, nothing would change. If you had pity to give, I wouldn’t get it. Because I didn’t want pity; I wanted action. I wanted to spark conversations on this campus that are so often neglected. Now, with the release of this week’s article by Lydia Koku ‘18, there is an explicit call to action.
To all of those who shared my article and voiced outrage over this administration’s handlings of Title IX—take the call. If the MeToo movement showed us anything, it is that we are not alone. We are never alone. The movement is bigger than a hashtag. It is through both whispers and rallying cries, stories told privately and publicly. It is through the stories that are never told, through Title IX processes never even began. We are a force; we have voices, strong and resolute, and we refuse to be silenced.
My last article was written in the middle of my adjudication process. I can now say that my process lasted from September to Valentine’s Day, a process meant to last no longer than sixty days. In the end, the accused was found responsible – an almost small token after the months of pain, anxiety, and tears I endured. In the time since my last article, I have found further failure within the process: the investigator once asked me what I was wearing on one of the nights in question, and then, very consistently mis-gendered one of my witnesses--after equally consistent correction. Later, the administration gave me no warning that not only would my perpetrator be eligible for a leadership role on campus in the time we were planning for the adjudication hearing, but that I would be, without notice, seeing his name on a ballot. When he won, there was further silence. I did not receive word back for weeks after emailing them about my concerns. When the administration told me that my case was substantial enough to move to a hearing, they did not suspend him from his RA position nor this new leadership role. The administration never told me that he would be allowed to continue his life like nothing was happening in various positions of trust and respect.
In Lydia’s article, they discuss what I believe is one of the most problematic aspects of this process–RA selection and Title IX. Lydia discussed how utterly ambiguous it is for the administration to say that they “consult Title IX” during RA selection, but do not reveal what the impact is. Contradictory to this statement, I reported the accused to Title IX before RA selection was over. I was told that Title IX would be consulted before he was made an RA. Yet, he was awarded the position, after which I was told that they don’t consult Title IX as much if the person is applying to be a 2nd term RA. So, I’m confused—does having one year’s experience as an RA give you immunity for sexual assault? Or does it just mean that you’ve really earned the benefit of the doubt? It’s tough to say with an administration that is about as transparent a brick wall.
This isn’t simply a case of bad luck. My experience, Lydia’s experience, too many other experiences, are not those of the outliers. We are not the exceptions to the rule. This administration has shown us that we are the rule.
Swarthmore is an institution that looks good on paper. While I was applying, my mom looked into the occurrences around the Spring of Our Discontent. She found relief in reading about all of the Title IX policy changes the school had made. She liked the Swarthmore she saw on paper. However, we are living Swarthmore’s reality. To applicants, to current students, and to alumni, the promise of a safe campus has continued to prove a false advertisement. A look at the SHARE website will reveal a laundry list of policy contradictions and deviations. The policy says that, if for any reason, there is a delay in the process, “the College will notify all parties of the reason for the delay and the expected adjustment in time frames”. Were Lydia and I notified? No. Not even in the third, fourth, or fifth months of our processes. We were not contacted when Nina Harris left. When you ask administrators about these policy breaches, they refuse to take responsibility, saying that they are not, in fact, violations nor are they the fault of the school. This careless response begs the question--who is the policy protecting?
Six months after filing my complaint, I am still angry. I am still anxious. I am still scared on this campus. I am still changed by this experience. I am hardened. I am less trusting. I am different. There is no “going back to normal” after enduring this process. Swarthmore is no longer my home. But we will leave this system better than we found it.
We are demanding policy change that protects those who have been victimized. We are demanding procedure to reflect that policy. We are demanding transparency. We are demanding communication, respect, and thoughtfulness in a process that we are supposed to trust. We are demanding explanations as to why the people who have harmed us are kept in leadership roles on this campus. We are demanding that the people whose job it is to oversee this unfathomably vulnerable process are well-trained, accountable, and not the previous advocates for those we have accused. We are demanding that those people, the wonderful ones upon whom we come to depend, do not feel the need to leave for other institutions that will treat them better; they are not disposable. We are demanding a feedback system that is taken seriously; that is accessible and non-threatening to those who wish to use it. We are demanding that Swarthmore become what it claims to be. We are demanding that Swarthmore answer to the students it has wronged.