WHAT NOW? O4S RESPONDS TO ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION SINCE DEMAND RELEASE
Six weeks ago today, Organizing for Survivors (O4S) released a comprehensive list of demands to President Smith. The demands identify and address the ways in which Swarthmore harms survivors through its Title IX related policies and procedures, and also evades accountability. Drawing on community discussions as well as our own experiences, we demanded changes in many areas of student life, including but not limited to: Title IX reporting procedures; new restorative options for survivors; resources and accommodations for survivors, including for the most marginalized survivors; fraternity housing; the Department of Public Safety; CAPS; and the Deans’ office.
We aim to end the cycle of harm by revolutionizing the ways we address violence on this campus. We have grounded our demands in an understanding that we must transform the structural conditions that lead to sexual violence on campus while prioritizing survivors’ needs, facilitating community healing, and proactively preventing further harm.
In the past six weeks, President Smith, Dean Braun, and CAPS Director David Ramirez have reached out to the O4S core to discuss our concerns. We have had meetings with all of these individuals, as well as informal conversations with many other administrators. These meetings have demonstrated that administrators cannot ignore our demands. However, our interactions tell us that while they are engaging with some of the demands, at least superficially, they are not yet invested in the radical, transformative change that we know is necessary. They have also neglected to engage with certain demands, including ones that are central to accountability and harm reduction.
We need responses that are thorough, enforceable, and effective. We need timelines and mechanisms that allow us to hold the administration accountable to the promises made. We need responses to all of our demands. We need action to address the institutions contributing to violence, including Public Safety and the fraternities. We need an apology that explicitly acknowledges the harm done by administrators. We need administrators who have violated student trust and caused harm to resign.
We are committed to continuing our work until these needs are met. While we are hopeful that some demands can be realized over the summer or by next semester, we understand the need to be vigilant and consistent in our efforts to hold the college accountable, to us and to its professed commitments.
A Call to Action
We hope that the broader Swarthmore community understands that past and future actions taken by O4S are not entered into lightly. These actions are taken out of desperation, in direct response to the fact that our attempts to engage in collaborative discussion have not been responded to in good faith. Our demands have been shunted to the side, ignored, and largely unanswered. The response we have received from the administration has been vague, non-committal, and incomplete. Every instance of disruption that we have created comes from a place of distress and sadness that the administration has not, and will not, act solely based on our demands and subsequent discussions. The only tool which remains available to us to create change is disruption.
We can hold Swarthmore to a higher standard than they are currently holding themselves to. We were promised an institution that would not only teach us about social justice but embody the principles of it—one that would protect and honor the needs of students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds.
To make Swarthmore keep the promises it has made to us, we have to escalate. We will continue to push the College to enact the principles of Transformative Justice. We will not allow the administration to wait for us to graduate and bury these issues, as they have done in the past. We encourage everyone in the community to attend our speak-out this Tuesday at 4pm in Parrish, where we will show the administration that we are not going away. As we continue to pressure the administration and hold them accountable, we invite anyone get involved with this work in whatever capacity they are able.
Meeting Summaries with Administrators
Our conversation with President Smith on April 4th centered on the specific ways in which the response she released to the community was inadequate. Though long, her response did not include a commitment to meet the vast majority of the demands. In the meeting, we highlighted a number of the demands that were left unmet, if addressed at all, in the hopes that President Smith would follow up with a more thorough response. We are disappointed that she has not yet done so. We believe that President Smith owes the community a thoughtful, detailed, and comprehensive plan that we can use to hold the College accountable for enacting changes in a timely manner.
With President Smith, we specifically articulated the ways that her response to the demands was inadequate, and also explained how the demands are grounded in our overall vision of transformative justice. We wanted her to understand how each of the proposed changes provide a pathway to transformative, structural change, and entered the meetings with the goal of discussing specific and timely ways that the College could do so. As we will describe further below, so far, we know that some demands are being partially met (with little information about timelines, enforceability, and effectiveness) and others are being refused or ignored entirely. More importantly, we still do not have faith in the leadership of the Dean’s Office. We are not convinced that the College’s professed commitment to addressing sexual violence has been translated to substantive action—
Below, we describe the ways in which our meetings with other administrators have been disappointing, disheartening, and overall inadequate:
On April 17th we met with Dean Liz Braun. She reached out to O4S on April 11, 2018. Though Dean Braun expressed her desire to “move forward together,” she attempted to end our meeting (early) on three separate occasions, the first being less than 10 minutes into the start of the meeting. Throughout the meeting, despite saying that she was “very committed” to these issues, she did not want to engage with the specifics of demands, particularly those that implicate her. By prefacing the meeting saying she would not “discuss [her] employment at the College”, she refused to discuss the ways we believe she has harmed students—the patterns we clearly identify in our open letter to her. While discussing her vague plans to work with Orientation and peer leadership staff on relevant training, she was unwilling to provide a clear timeline or a plan of action. All of the solutions that she initiated were solely education-based and did not address the root causes of the various harms that have taken place or the role of the administration in enabling this harm. When we asked if she would apologize for the harm she had caused students, she referred to this as a “layered question,” and refused to answer whether or not she planned on offering an apology.
We have not been contacted, either individually or as a group, by Dean Nathan Miller, Beth Pitts, or Michelle Ray. We also have not heard from Michael Hill, director of Public Safety, regarding our demand for an external review of the office. They have not publicly or privately responded to or acknowledged their accountability in regards to the issues we raised in our open letters, including failure to perform the duties of their jobs and egregious disrespect and mistreatment of students. We stand by our demand for the immediate resignation of Deans Miller and Braun, as well as Associate Director for Investigations Beth Pitts.
After meeting with fraternity leadership, we are not convinced that either fraternity is genuinely willing to address community concerns about sexual violence in these spaces nor about the inequitable allocations of power and resources that foreground it. Additionally, after discussion with Andrew Barclay, Assistant Director of Student Engagement, we are not optimistic that the College will act appropriately with regards to this matter on its own accord. We do not believe another year of research by a committee will adequately address the problems we have identified here with Swarthmore’s fraternities. We stand by our demand to end fraternity housing on campus immediately and we believe the College is responsible for harm caused by the fraternities so long as it refuses to take action.
We have been most heartened by our interactions with CAPS. We have found Dr. Ramirez to be receptive to our concerns about the ways CAPS has not been serving all students as well as ways CAPS staff can better support survivors.
In general, most of the responses from the administration have been explicitly avoided using the language of our demands or the specificity of our demands. Instead, they have provided vague and non-committal responses, framed as thinking about changes and thinking about planning conversations about these changes. We, as a community, do not yet have clear commitments, changes, or even timelines to hold the College accountable to.
- Swarthmore must, by the start of the 2018-2019 school year, have fully transitioned to an investigative adjudication process for all formal complaints, rather than the current hearing-based, model. While we push for the institution of restorative and transformative processes, we acknowledge that, for a variety of reasons (including the law, circumstances, etc.), a formal adjudication process is sometimes necessary or best.
UNMET: President Smith did not address the demand for an investigative model in her written response. In conversations with O4S, she explained that she plans to give the incoming Title IX Director the task of deciding whether the investigative model is “best practice.” We are unsatisfied with President Smith’s failure to even mention the investigate model in her written response. We explained that, at the least, the new Title IX Coordinator should be specifically charged with the shift to a new model and this promise should be articulated to the student body. We know that as a result of President Smith, Michelle Ray, and Dean Braun’s unwillingness to respond to these concerns in the short- and long-term, survivors experienced ongoing harm this semester.
2. Swarthmore must cut ties with external adjudicators who have, in the course of their work with the college, violated students’ rights, and must cease the practice of hiring retired judges.
UNMET: In her written response, President Smith did not commit to not rehiring previous adjudicators who have violated college policy and students rights. She said the college would not hire external adjudicators who lack the “experience and sensitivity” necessary to handle these cases. She did not include what we requested (see demand 3), which was a clear and public description of the training requirements for external adjudicators, or any information as to how the “experience and sensitivity” of adjudicators would be assessed.
3. Swarthmore must clarify and make public the training requirements for investigators, relevant staff, and external adjudicators and ensure that such training is trauma-informed and sensitive to the needs of queer and non-binary students. The college must prohibit inappropriate and victim-blaming questions at all points during the investigative process and hold staff members who engage in these lines of questioning accountable.
UNMET: President Smith and Dean Braun said they support further trauma-related training for external adjudicators without a clear explanation of how this will occur and what it will entail. We do not have faith in this statement as is, given that previous adjudicators were ostensibly trained by the college to perform their roles appropriately and that did not prevent them from a. pursuing victim-blaming lines of questioning, b. violating college policy, and c. failing to effectively adjudicate the policy.
4. Swarthmore must ensure that our right for Title IX proceedings to not exceed 60 days is protected. The college must increase staff accountability to students when delays occur by ensuring that the students involved are appropriately notified of the delay and why it occurred.
UNMET: Swarthmore consistently violates students’ right, as articulated by the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, to have their complaints resolved within 60 days. The Office of Civil Rights established the 60-day timeframe based on its assessment of typical cases, and cites potential allowances for lengthier investigations if: a. a parallel police investigation is occurring, b. the school is unable to conduct the investigation or adjudication during school breaks, or c. the case involved multiple incidents and multiple complainants. Needing to conduct additional interviews or to allow time to review interviews, does not, as President Smith contends in her response, constitute a justifiable reason to violate that timeline.
Swarthmore continues to evade the reality that many, if not most, survivors fail to see their cases resolved in a 60 day period, as mandated by federal law. Though “confidentiality” and “due process” are often invoked, we know that proceedings are not completed within the time frame due to administrative incompetence, mismanagement, and bureaucracy.
5. Swarthmore must appropriately prepare and support all witnesses to be involved in the investigative process. Witnesses must be given the opportunity to meet with an advocate, and attain relevant academic and supportive accommodations.
UNMET: President Smith did not include in her letter to the community any commitment to meeting this demand. Before the end of the year, we require that some acknowledgement be given to better preparing witnesses, particularly student witnesses, to undertake this laborious process.
6. Swarthmore must limit the length of all in-person procedures, such as investigative interviews, not to exceed a few hours.
PARTIALLY MET: In private meetings, multiple administrators have acknowledged that proceedings should be quicker and a willingness to attempt to shorten them. However, we have not received a commitment that survivors are entitled to have these interactions conclude within a reasonable and fixed number of hours.
7. Swarthmore must extend the appeal window to allow adequate time for survivors to acquire additional advice and support.
UNMET: There has been no commitment to extending the appeal window, nor a specific and public directive to the Title IX Coordinator mandating it be addressed next year.
8. For instances where formal adjudication is necessary, Swarthmore must ensure that the conditions of sanctions are detailed, enforceable, and adequate for the harm caused. Swarthmore must add a section to their sexual harassment and assault policy that defines the minimum and maximum disciplinary action possible for respondents found responsible of specific types of sexual violence. The college must also clarify and make public the process of reapplication for students found responsible.
UNMET: President Smith has not addressed this demand nor the issue that underlies it: Dean Miller’s pattern of administering inadequate, vague, and superficial sanctions.
While students are allowed to appeal adjudication decisions on the grounds that sanctions are “grossly disproportionate” to the violation committed, there is no formal explication of what defines proportionate and disproportionate. We acknowledge the potential for each case to vary greatly from the next; however, without a sense of what the College deems reasonable, understanding a decision is impossible. Additionally, without a change in practice, sanctions will continue to serve the purpose of “waiting out” a survivor without intervening in the respondent’s violent behavior.
President Smith and Dean Braun have not addressed under what circumstances suspended students can return to the College in an accessible and clear way.
9. Swarthmore must mandate specific, formal behavioral change and counseling programs for all perpetrators found responsible—including those previously found responsible who still attend or will return to Swarthmore College. Returning to school and remaining in school must be contingent on the respondent’s successful completion of such a program, and continued enrollment in such a program if deemed necessary by the program’s professionals at the time of re-enrollment.
- We believe this requirement necessarily makes even punitive processes significantly more likely to result in transformational change and harm reduction. Many peer institutions have successfully implemented a behavioral change program. Princeton’s Community Integrity Program (CIP) serves as an example which “is a time-limited, individualized psychoeducational curriculum administered by a clinical psychologist. It serves to assist individuals in exploring harmful attitudes and behaviors, with an aim to empower individuals to actively contribute to a healthier and safer campus community.” Princeton's Policy on Sexual Misconduct and Title IX
UNMET: Although behavioral change programs and resources are fundamental in moving towards a system that facilitates transformation and harm-reduction, President Smith has not committed to meeting this demand. While administrators have shown informal support for the idea, we have not received any formal commitment that the College will be pursuing a behavioral change requirement after a responsibility finding, making it impossible for us to hold them accountable in instituting this practice.
10. Swarthmore must mandate that any student who is found responsible for violating a TIX policy and decides to transfer to another school disclose their standing with the College, and must list their standing to any copy of their official transcript.
- The transcript of the student who caused harm must list their disciplinary standing prior to the decision to transfer only if the student has chosen to opt out of any transformative justice and/or behavioral change programs.
PARTIALLY MET: President Smith stated that she would “refer to the provost” regarding this matter. However, she, nor the provost has followed up on this important demand, that both increases the prospect of accountability and encourages participation in behavioral change programs.
11. We demand the implementation of new Transformative Justice options, fully funded and staffed by professionals well-versed in the precepts of Transformative Justice.
UNMET: Though Dean Braun and President Smith have verbally shown support for this demand, there has been no formal commitment by the College to meeting this demand. Additionally, there has been no pledging of resources to researching how this might be implemented.
12. Swarthmore must prohibit any student who is not in good standing with the college (currently on probation or suspension) or who has been identified as a respondent within the College’s sexual assault and sexual harassment adjudication process from serving in a position of power at the College. Such individuals will be removed from any Residential Peer Leader (RA, DPA, GA, SHA) positions or TA positions they already hold, and prohibited from applying in the future unless they have undergone a transformative process.
- Transformative Justice requires the shifting of power, away from people who abuse it and towards people who have experienced harm. Removal from privileged positions of power is not solely punitive but also rooted in a desire to intervene in power dynamics and prioritize the safety of the survivor.
PARTIALLY MET: President Smith has supported the change in RPL policy that prevents students “not in good standing” from holding leadership positions. She stated that, “We have clarified the requirements for student residential peer leaders.” Though this is a promise of change there has not been a formal campus wide announcement of this policy change. Additionally, President Smith stated that she would defer to the Provost regarding TA positions. We have not heard from President Smith or the Provost to follow up on the progress of this demand.
13. Swarthmore must add clear enforcement mechanisms and consequences for non-adherence to their policy on contact restrictions.
- Again, Transformative Justice must be survivor-centered. Contact restrictions are incredibly important to survivor safety and wellbeing and must be adhered to.
Swarthmore must institute a policy that any student who is not in good standing with the college, (currently on probation or suspension) or who has been identified as a respondent within the College’s sexual assault and sexual harassment adjudication process, is placed on social probation as an interim measure, until the resolution of the complaint. Social probation must prohibit attendance in registered social events as well as prohibit involvement in fraternities, sororities, or other specific programs or groups. Swarthmore must also allow for interim suspension to be considered in cases where ongoing danger is present.
- Social activities, like participation in fraternities and sororities and attending large scale parties, are a privilege, not a right. Social probation would remove students who are not in good standing from these spaces, which is key to harm-reduction and to providing safety for survivors.
UNMET: President Smith has asserted that the norms of due process prevent interim measures. She stated that, “as a general matter the College cannot prevent individuals who have been “identified as a respondent” from pursuing leadership opportunities before their complaints have been resolved… We must continue to preserve our commitment to due process and constitutional norms.” This response is inadequate, Swarthmore must change its policy on contact restrictions and any disciplinary measures so that they do not require the agreement of the person who caused harm.
14. We demand education and supportive services for survivors and all students that ensure our wellbeing.
Swarthmore must provide the option of an external lawyer or legal advocate for survivors, whether through a College-hired advocate or through pro-bono resources. All Swarthmore staff must cease the practice of discouraging survivors from legal counsel as long as respondents are encouraged to utilize a lawyer through formal procedures.
Additionally, the legal approach of the advocates/lawyers must be routed in Transformative Justice (see Illinois Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois )
UNMET: President Smith has said the College will not meet this demand and has not explained, then, how to make legal assistance either unnecessary to the process or accessible to all.
15. CAPS must have a specific staff member to provide support for survivors who choose or do not choose to pursue further options. Additionally, All CAPS therapists must be trained in trauma-informed survivor support, community-based healing processes, as well as trained in Title IX policies.
Update the CAPS website with a list of staff members and their specific training in this area so students can make informed decisions about support.
Swarthmore must inform all students during Orientation of their complete Title IX rights, including information on formal and informal processes, must be made clear to us at Orientation. Our consent education must be in-depth, ongoing, trauma-informed, and sensitive to the needs of queer and non-binary students.
CAPS, by the start of the 2018-2019 school year, needs to hire more therapists of color, including but not limited to Black therapists. The college should also hire more sexually queer and genderqueer therapists.
PARTIALLY MET: CAPS staff is in the process of trying to meet these demands. We have been engaging in talks with head of CAPS, David Ramirez, and therapist, Stacy Green. We are hopeful because these conversations have been the most productive thus far. In regards to meeting the demands listed above, David and Stacy have confirmed that there will be one Black therapist at CAPS starting in the 2018-2019 school year; they are open to hiring a private contractor who will lead support groups for LGBT+ survivors as well as survivors of color; David and Stacy are also open to having more of an on-campus presence through the school year, and also during orientation week to inform students of the counseling and psychiatric services available to them. We recognize that one Black therapist is by no means a solution to the lack of therapist of color, and we have been strategizing with David and Stacy to think through how their hiring processes can directly encourage and make room for more therapists of color as well as queer and trans therapists, and how Swarthmore as an institution can better support and retain the employments of therapists belonging to these marginalized groups. David Ramirez has informed us that therapists have a weekly reading group and run scenarios to stay up to date on Title IX related issues. We are also strategizing how this weekly practice can be better translated into sessions.
16. We demand an end to the dangerous structure of fraternity housing on campus.Swarthmore must remove students living in the fraternities immediately and relocate them to regular campus housing. By the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the college must terminate its leases with Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon and rename and democratize the buildings they currently lease so that any student or student group can host events there.
Swarthmore must begin a thorough, formal, and transparent process of examining whether the existence of fraternity organizations on campus is aligned with Swarthmore’s professed values of inclusion and justice.
Fraternities represent an inequitable consolidation of power and a history of sexually violent culture/practices. For this reason, accountability must take the form of shifting power by democratizing the fraternity buildings and reallocating them as student spaces.
UNMET: President Smith refuses to meet this demand and, instead, has diverted these concerns to the “Ad-Hoc Committee on Social Life and Wellbeing.” This committee was charged to make a recommendation on fraternities by the end of this semester, which President Smith has said they have yet do. We don’t believe another year of committee work is promising and, instead, reiterate our stance that the College has an obligation to act immediately on this dangerous and inequitable structure.
Dean Braun has put forward regulations for who can reside in the fraternity houses (i.e., “not on suspension” or probation). Though we are surprised this was not already an existing condition, we believe these changes are insufficient and insulting to the collection of experiences and concerns brought forward.
17. We demand individual staff changes and changes in institutional policy.
For real accountability, staff changes must occur. Administrators who engage in patterns of harming students can no longer serve in those roles at the College. Instead, through participatory hiring committees, Swarthmore must replace these roles with trained, diverse, and competent people to as well as institute feedback and accountability mechanisms to prevent the same dynamics.
We demand the resignation of Dean of Students Liz Braun, for her historic and ongoing unwillingness to meaningfully respond to student concerns about policy and practice, as well as her past inappropriate conduct as a participant in the adjudication of Title IX cases other failures to protect students.
We demand the resignation of Associate Dean of Students Nathan Miller, for his historic and ongoing enabling of Title IX violations and policy mishandling during adjudication processes.
We demand the resignation of Associate Director for Investigations Beth Pitts, for her historic and ongoing mistreating and disbelieving of survivors and ineffective overseeing of the office as a whole.
UNMET: Elizabeth Braun, Nathan Miller, and Beth Pitts have not only not resigned, but also have refused to respond to the open letters presented to them or apologized for harm they have committed. They have been unreceptive to
18. Swarthmore must release the findings of the external review of the Dean’s Office to the student body.
- As community members, students have the right to this information.
UNMET: President Smith has stated that she does not yet have the external review of the Dean’s Office and has promised to release them once they are in her possession. We have not received a timeline of when the review will be released nor any assurance it will be conclusive or enforced.
19. We demand that Michelle Ray, who previously served as Case Manager for accused students and currently serves as the Interim Title IX Coordinator, must no longer be involved in the Title IX Office. Her ability to serve students in these roles has been compromised by the College’s mishandling of her transition between these roles.
- She may serve in other roles or potentially re-apply for this role after a waiting period.
UNMET: Although there is a search for a new Title IX coordinator, President Smith has not guaranteed that Michelle Ray will no longer be serving in the Title IX office in a different capacity.
20. Public Safety must have at least one woman on call at all times.
UNMET: Public Safety has yet to respond to any of our demands nor requested further clarification or information.
21. Swarthmore must conduct an external review of Public Safety as a whole, for the ways in which the office continues to mishandle Title IX concerns and disproportionately mistreat women, students of color, and queer and trans students.
- This external review must be conducted by qualified external professionals who have experience working with LGBTQ+ individuals and PoC, such as Angela Giampolo or Dolores Huerta.
UNMET: President Smith and Gregory Brown (VP of College Finances and superior to Mike Hill who is the head of Public Safety) have been unresponsive in our request to aid in the conduction of an external review of Public Safety. Instead President Smith has decided to leave any further actions in the hands of Public Safety itself.
22. Students must be informed on the processes of reporting and holding accountable staff members, including Public Safety officers. Accountability mechanisms for Public Safety must not solely be internal, as in determined by Public Safety itself.
PARTIALLY MET: Although O4S’s questions regarding the Swarthmore administrative chain of command have been answered by President Smith, she has yet to make it public to the community and inform students of who they should contact for support.
23. We require timely and thorough written response from all parties involved in the Title IX processes.
PARTIALLY MET : Michelle Ray and the Title IX team have begun to give weekly updates to some students. These updates are only vague in nature and usually inform students that the office is “still working on their investigation, and that they will keep the student update if any changes should arise.”
24. We demand a formal apology by Swarthmore College to the many students it has harmed and retraumatized through its negligence, misconduct, and wrongdoings.
Swarthmore College, as an institution, must formally take responsibility and admit to its wrongdoing in the name of restorative justice and accountability. We call for a formal, public, and letter by President Smith and signed by all involved in the Title IX process, including but not limited to Dean Braun, Dean Miller, and Michelle Ray, acknowledging this harm and committing to immediate transformation of the structures that have created it.
- Transformative Justice and institutional accountability cannot occur without an assumption of responsibility and an admission of wrongdoing. The healing of people who have experiences harm through the College's actions are entitled to a formal and comprehensive apology.
UNMET: We do not believe “regret[ting] any burdens that students have borne unnecessarily during any phase of the Title IX reporting and adjudication process” suffices as an apology or an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. As we have described throughout the past six weeks, community healing and real accountability must begin with a thorough reckoning of what has already happened. So long as President Smith, administrators, and other campus institutions, refuse to apologize, restoration and transformation are made impossible.