The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Notice from SSASS

To Members of the Reed Community,
Over the past week, the Students for Sexual Assault Support Services (SSASS) have circulated a petition calling for specific and immediate changes to the current sexual assault policy and practices at Reed College. This petition was in circulation for 100 hours and gained 847 signatures of support, 58% of the student body. In contrast, only 37% cast their vote in the last student body elections for Senate and the Quest board.

Initially intended to gauge community support for our cause, we see the overwhelming success of this petition as a clear expression of the gravity of this issue and our collective commitment to work collaboratively with the administration in order to improve the current procedures used by the college to prevent and respond to sexual assault.

The petition calls for the following changes to our current practices:

  1. The removal of sexual assault cases from the student Judicial Board’s jurisdiction. A new board will be created to hear these cases. This board will receive specialized training on how to adequately hear and adjudicate sex crimes.
  2. The creation of a new position for an Assistant Dean of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy.
  3. The hiring of a Women’s Center liaison. Although our petition calls for a “female-identified” staff person, the primary intent behind this demand seeks to ensure the individual hired be highly trained to effectively engage with female survivors on these sensitive issues. This staff member will serve as a resource for survivors as well as those supporting survivors, and will develop the Women’s Center into a campus department in line with the Multicultural Resource Center.
  4. Release and make publicly available the identities of all individuals found guilty of sexual assault consistent with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX and FERPA.

We expect the Reed Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Assault, convened in August 2010 at the behest of the President’s Office, to present their charge to President Diver in the near future. We ask him to consider our petition in tandem with the Ad Hoc Committee’s proposal as representative of a unified goal to move towards a safer and better-educated community.

We look forward to President Diver’s response, and to continuing to work as a community to improve our institutional practices.

Sincerely,

Students for Sexual Assault Support Services

Comments
3 Responses to “Notice from SSASS”
  1. Is the primary goal here rape awareness and prevention, or after-care?

    Although competent after-care is important, my general sense is that the most important and productive work is in awareness and prevention: making people aware of what rape is, what conditioning and circumstances encourage it, and how to create a student culture which makes rape less likely. “Professionalizing” this important work through an increase in administrative budgets under a structure which provides only lip service is progress, but is there anyone who believes it was a lack of budget that led to such profound neglect, indifference and incompetence on the part of the trustees, President and Vice President of Student Services? I believe that the primary problem is a moral and cultural one, that will not be solved by adding boxes to an administrative “org chart.” Indeed, the liberal arrogance of “professional student services” has arguably made the situation worse than it was in the 1990′s.

    Administrators and their employees, as a rule, do not understand key feminist concepts such as “rape culture” (and arguably cannot). Their entire raison d’être is maintenance of dominant systems with little beige patches of amelioration that provide plausible deniability for their precious sense of self-worth and respectability within the dominant system. They are corporatists with conscience, to a point.

    Effective rape awareness and prevention is essentially a cultural change. Trusted authority figures (such as the police or CSO’s) must consistently assert that rape is wrong and clarify both what it is and their strong interest in pursuing rapists. Respected peer figures (such as sexy students, leaders, sophomores and up) must model better behaviors and bring peer pressure to bear toward a safer and sexier culture of consent. Psychological and spiritual support personnel (such as activists and counselors) must provide emotional support in pursuit of a better culture and administrators must act aggressively to protect the college’s finances and reputation by seriously and consistently moving to stop rape by getting rapists and those who help create the conditions for rape (through sexual harassment, intemperate drinking, etcetera) out of circulation. Theoretical overlords such as legislators and trustees must provide oversight and accountability of administrators. And ideally all of this should happen consistently, all the time. Appointing an administrative “den mother” for the Women’s Center is insulting and patronizing.

    Author and activist Molly Ivins used to ruefully note that “you got to dance with them what brung you,” and any person whose salary is paid by and whom reports to the administration is naturally going to be sympathetic and attuned to the cultural imperatives of the administration, which have NOT been primarily focused on student welfare. Given that students will be paying for all of this one way or another, I would suggest models that clearly pay for a strong moral advocate out of student (or other) money, if one believes that such money must be paid.

    As a “white” male who had the privilege to attend Reed, some of my most powerful teachers have been women of color and two phrases came immediately to mind upon seeing this proposal from the SASS. The first was Audre Lord’s observation that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and a second was INCITE’s felicitous observation that “the revolution will not be funded.” Chris Hedges (a fellow person of pallor) published a slim book last year on The Death of the Liberal Class which succinctly explains how ameliorationist views have inevitably co-opted serious moral stances, and that understanding can easily be applied at Reed around this issue. If current students would look to what happened after the Black Studies occupations of the late 1960′s (or talk to local folks who saw the institutional aftermath of those temporary changes) I think it might be illustrative.

    Vested professional administrators in a large, (educational) industrial corporation are generally not capable of implementing changes within youth culture, although they can support them. Given that it is primarily students who are committing these rapes and being raped, the primary impetus to stop rape at Reed must come from (and always has come) students, former students and their strong feminist allies. The administrative can only support or impede such strong and important cultural changes, they cannot create them.

    Identifying and changing the dominant “rape culture” is the larger issue, and hiring some glorified camp counselor, bartender Guinan from TNG or Julie from The Love Boat cannot solve this. Beware simple, business-as-usual “fixes” which are not accompanied by serious moral and psychological changes on the ground. Every year brings hundreds of new youth to Reed, nearly all of whom are conditioned by an overculture that routinely produces campus rape. Theoretically, Reed’s rape culture can be completely turned around within three to four years, but it must always begin with students and be repeated every fall, and all year after that.

    Under no circumstances do I believe that ANY board of students, administrators or other Reed personnel should EVER feel competent to adjudicate sex crimes. If they are really crimes, they should be treated as such within the criminal justice system, with on-campus recourse understood as every victim’s right IN ADDITION to “real” criminal procedures which bring in powers larger than the administration (such as the Clery Act) to encourage proper handling of crimes. This is not a stolen bicycle, people, nor cheating nor keeping of unauthorized pets in the dorms.

    http://www.southendpress.org/2006/items/87662
    http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Never-Called-Rape-Robin-Warshaw/?isbn=9780060925727
    http://www.susanbrownmiller.com/susanbrownmiller/html/against_our_will.html
    http://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/margins-to-centre/2006-March/000794.html
    http://www.nationbooks.org/book/217/Death%20of%20the%20Liberal%20Class

    • shemitzs says:

      a) The student judicial board does NOT adjudicate sex crimes, any more than it adjudicates any other crime, which is not at all. It makes a recommendation only.
      b) “Real” criminal proceedings are ALREADY every “victim” (or any other student)’s right.

      • shermank says:

        definitely on b. each alleged victim and each alleged perpetrator has the right to a fair and just trial before an actual judge and real attorneys.. not some kids pretending they are in law school.*

        *and only after that happens, is it fair to begin discussing a ‘list’ of sex offenders.

Leave a Reply