We Can’t Fight Campus Sexual Assault Without Accountability

“We were all amazed and pained by the recently released story. For all of us, this is a matter that is deeply personal.

Dean Karen Bacon wrote these words in an email to the student body on September 2. The story she refers to is one we all know: an anonymous YU student’s article alleging that a male athlete raped her and the university failed to help him. . On Sunday, it had been more than four months since The Commentator first published this harrowing account – nearly the entire fall semester, from the first day of classes on August 25 to the last day of classes on December 27.

At first, rape allegations became our primary concern, taking center stage in Jewish communities across the country. But soon after, the news cycle moved on and this story left as it came. What once made national and international headlines quickly became another forgotten skeleton tucked away in our shared closet.

In her September email, Dean Bacon told students that tackling sexual assault and harassment on campus was President Ari Berman’s “top priority.” In that vein, he was asked to lead these efforts with a committee consisting of Rabbi Josh Blass and Deans Joe Bednarsh, Leslie Halpern, Sara Asher, and Danielle Wozniak (the latter now leaving YU). Although the email indicated that updates would be shared with students after the Chaguim, no such update has arrived. But change could be coming soon.

Last week, after The Commentator reached out for the third time, Dean Bacon wrote that the committee had been meeting with students over the past few months to get their views on what YU could improve. She then shared two of the initiatives planned by the committee: First, it is developing an “easier-to-navigate information system” for students to easily understand YU’s Title IX process, as well as finding and accessing relevant support. Second, a team of “resident experts” from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work is putting together an “updated educational program” on these issues for spring orientation.

Undoubtedly, this is a positive step for YU. Every student should know what to do if, God forbid, they are the victim of sexual assault or harassment. We commend Dean Bacon’s committee on that, but that’s only half the battle. The anonymous student’s article about her experience involves issues that go beyond a simple lack of information.

“Sometimes I feel like saying in school was almost as painful and hard to live with as the rape itself,” she wrote. Describing YU’s investigation into her case and its prolonged duration, she said: “The process felt like a re-traumatization of what I went through – like I was still clinging to the incident that I would never anything to give up – and every day of waiting only added to that trauma. These are problems that a flowchart cannot solve.

The student alluded to gross insensitivity and incompetence on the part of the administrators involved. In the article, she wrote that she “repeatedly reached out” about her safety on campus and her fears of meeting the other student, but was “ordered to deal with it. “. This dismissive behavior was not limited to the consequences of his investigation. He reappeared earlier this semester.

As her article continued to gain traction, the survivor said another male athlete – the same one she said called her a ‘whore’ and a ‘bitch’ – began to reveal his identity to others. people. The student contacted various administrators to intervene but was ignored. It wasn’t until a Commentator editor personally emailed a dean twice that someone spoke to him directly. And again, they were useless.

This is unacceptable. Students cannot be safe on campus if they cannot rely on those who are supposed to protect them. So far, YU hasn’t given them a reason to do so.

Ultimately, Dean Bacon’s committee must add another goal to its agenda: retraining its Title IX staff and holding administrators accountable for their failures. Without a critical examination of this area, the efforts of the committee will be in vain. We agree with Dean Bacon that this student’s experience is staggering, painful and deeply personal. Let’s make sure it’s the last.

Editor’s Note: In order for an article to be designated as “The Editorial Board of the Commentator”, a minimum of 75% of the members of the Editorial Board, including the Editor-in-Chief, must agree.

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