A Message from Professor Emerita Olivia Frey

Associate Professor Emerita Olivia Frey recently contacted us to provide a historical outlook on St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies.

We are incredibly disheartened to learn that some of our demands have been pressed for by concerned Oles for OVER A DECADE.

Professor Frey asked a past administration to incorporate “professionals, trained in dealing with rape and sexual assault” and to mandate harsher sanctions for rapists. We are asking for the same things many years later. There has been painfully little progress.

We are disappointed to announce that we are still waiting to hear back from administration after last Thursday’s email promising to assemble a “working group” over the summer. We are still ready to start reforming our sexual assault policy right now. 

Here is Professor Frey’s email:

Dear protestors:

I am an Assoc. Professor Emerita, having retired from St. Olaf in 2001 after teaching there for 20 years.
Let me first say how I admire your courage. You have left yourself open to harassment and ridicule for coming forward. (You are in good company!)
Fifteen or so years ago, I chaired a committee called Committee on the Status of Women. The committee was made up of faculty, staff and students.
One of the issues that we tackled, that we fought hard to change, was the St. Olaf policy on sexual assault.
Back then, when someone charged that a fellow student had raped/assaulted her, the common practice was to bring the two into a room together (!). A dean of some kind would attend, often one of the deans for residential life (often a man), and the three would “discuss” the charge. This meeting constituted the college’s investigation of the charge.
I don’t need to list for you the problems with this. In probably every case, the attacker was cleared, and the survivor admitted that alcohol had played a role, implying that she was partly if not 50% responsible for what had happened.
Well, really, we raised hell, but not in quite the creative way you have.
For two years we pounded away at this. Finally, some changes were made. The most radical on the committee wanted the college to inform the police immediately. Of course, this was rejected. We also wanted attackers to be expelled. Absolutely not. And if the attackers were never found guilty, it was a moot point anyway.
What we were able to accomplish, at least, a very small victory, was that the two would NOT be placed in a room together when they were interviewed. The person attacked would have an advocate (female) from beginning to the end of the process.
We also tried to get the college to do the following. When the attacker was held responsible (!), he would at least need to move to another dorm. In many cases, attackers lived in the same dorm, sometimes on the same floor. We asked that attackers be given the choice–Have counseling, or be expelled from school. We asked that professionals, trained in dealing with rape and sexual assault, be involved in these instances and provide training for deans or whatever administrator or staff were enlisted to help.
Nope. None of it.
The then president of the college, Mark Edwards, called me to his office at some point. He was very casual and chatty at first. Then mentioned I had been chair of the CSW for some years, and it was probably time for a change. (People served on the committee at the behest of the president). I said, no, there’s still some things to get done, particularly with the sexual assault policy, and I’d like one more term.
He said No, you’re done. You’re off the committee.
When Jo Beld says that the college is continually refining its sexual conduct process, that’s bullshit. Nothing seems to have changed in the last decades, and decades before that. When David Anderson says, “We are doing the best we know how . . . ,” that is also bullshit.
When Jo says requiring a verbal assent would redefine romantic encounters, I hope she is being quoted out of context. I suspect not. The comment is disgusting. It is naive and begs the question about romantic encounters. Her comments demonstrate that she is an apologist for the college’s broken, yes broken, sexual assault policy and procedures. Like having the fox in charge of the hen house.
It is obvious to me–I am 65 and have seen so much of this over the years–that the college’s (and the board’s) primary objective is not the safety of students or their well being, but protecting their name from scandal. I believed then and believe now that their motive for clearing accused assailants was that they didn’t want to lose the tuition. Expelled? No more tuition.
You may use this story, repeat it, etc. as often as you want.
In closing, Your group has the basis for a class-action suit to end all class-action suits. At the very least, an independent party (news organization like WCCO or Star Trib) should investigate this–going back years and years.
The college will make many promises of policy review, committees to review, blah blah blah. What they depend on for this to go away is that you will graduate, or get caught up in classes and exams and won’t have any more time and energy.
Stick with it.
We intend to “stick with it,” and we hope that other concerned students and alumni stick with it as well.
WINDMILL OLIVIA FREY
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We Are Ready to Act. Is St. Olaf Administration?

A month ago I told an administrative member of St. Olaf’s Title IX team that I would be wearing a shirt that called attention to my rape in order to raise awareness about the way St. Olaf botched the handling of my sexual assault case and the sexual assault cases of several of my fellow students.

The administrator replied: “If you want to come at the school, come at the school.”

A week ago myself and several allies did indeed “come at the school.”

Since then, most of St. Olaf’s campus has heard my story and begun a serious dialogue about the way that survivors of sexual assault are treated by administration. Various media outlets have taken note.

One might think that the success of this protest would indicate to the St. Olaf administration that survivors of sexual assault take serious issue with their policies, and that their concerns should be taken seriously.

Since last week, administrators have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not take our concerns seriously.

First, there was this email from President David Anderson and Title IX Coordinator Jo Beld, which came out on the first day my friends and I were wearing our shirts. This email attempted to pass off our protest as “Concerns with Sexual Assault” when the concerns at the heart of our protest lie with a sexual assault policy that utterly fails to protect Ole students from their assailants.

Then, came this email, which seemed to acknowledge the validity of our concerns. However, after speaking to  PDA and the Title IX team on Monday, communication from them to us has ceased.

Additionally, in that email our President tried to pre-empt my impending complaint to the Office of Civil Rights by asking for an independent review. This review would have been redundant, as I am already in the process of filing an OCR complaint. Tellingly, the OCR declined our administration’s request. This in no way means that the school will not be investigated by the OCR.

A recent “educational event” put on by the Title IX team took place in a small room packed full of students, many of whom had their own questions about the way in which Olaf has been handling sexual assault. President David Anderson was not in attendance.

During the event, a Title IX administrator could be seen checking Twitter. When asked why they were not paying attention to their colleagues’ presentation, the administrator responded “I have important things to do.” This is grossly disrespectful.

During the Q&A section an administrator was asked what sorts of actions could signify “overt consent” to sexual activity. The administrator responded with an anecdote about how hugging their spouse could imply consent. A student quickly noted that our sexual assault policy explicitly states “consent to a particular sexual activity cannot be inferred from consent to a different form of sexual activity.” The ignorance on the behalf of St. Olaf administration as to their own policy has been insulting.

And today, a third email from President David Anderson:

Dear Members of the St. Olaf Community,

Today an article was published in the Star Tribune that reflects the pain and conflict that sexual misconduct investigations bring to college campuses across the country. Sexual assault is one of the most difficult, complicated, and emotionally fraught issues that any college ever confronts.  It’s no different at St. Olaf where we do our best to provide a safe and supportive community for our students.

St. Olaf College does not tolerate sexual misconduct.  Our comprehensive Title IX policies address incidents that threaten the safety and well-being of our students. These policies have improved over time and we seek to continually improve them as we learn best practices from external experts and our own experiences.

Last week we asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to conduct an independent review of our Title IX policies. Yesterday the Department declined to conduct this review.

However, the issue of sexual misconduct is serious enough to warrant an immediate and thorough assessment of our policies.

That is why I am appointing a St. Olaf Title IX Working Group, which will include St. Olaf faculty, students, and alumni, as well as external experts.  The working group will be charged with reviewing our policies with rigor, responsibility and a strong commitment to our values, while complying with the latest federal and state regulations. Working group representatives will seek advice from students who have participated firsthand in St. Olaf’s Title IX processes, other colleges and universities with particularly robust policies, and other experts.

This summer the working group will present its recommendations, which will be shared with the St. Olaf community.  College leadership will be responsible for the implementation of any policy changes before the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Thank you for your support of the St. Olaf community.

Prior to receiving this e-mail, no one involved with our protest or with Student Government had heard of this “working group.” Additionally, various administrators expressed in conversation that members of our protest, all of whom are well versed in Title IX law, might be “too biased” to be a part of this “working group.”

Furthermore, this “working group” will meet over the summer, after every single person who is currently wearing a shirt has graduated.

President David Anderson today made the move to exclude the students who have given voice to concerns about St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy from further conversation about said policy. He has additionally failed to mention addressing our demands, which have been sponsored by a national Title IX rights advocacy group, Know Your IX.

This is shameful.

We are on campus and willing to engage in conversation right now. Student leaders in both SARN and our Student Government, including representatives from our schools It’s On Us task force are on campus and willing to engage this conversation right now.

We understand that concrete policy change can take time, but to put conversation on hold until the summer is disrespectful. We are ready to act.

We are ready for our administrators to stop delaying this process. We are ready for our administrators to take action.

 

08-559496+09OLAF040616

Petition to President David Anderson

Know Your IX, a nationally recognized organization that seeks to educate high school and college students about their rights under federal Title IX law is backing our petition to reform St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/st-olaf-college-should-protect-sexual-assault-survivors

Please show support of our cause by signing this petition. As we hope this website demonstrates, St. Olaf’s sexual assault policies have greatly harmed a good deal of survivors. This cannot continue.

 

Update After Meeting with Title IX Team

I am writing to report on our meeting with President David Anderson and the Title IX team at St. Olaf. Our desire is to be as transparent as possible regarding our conversations with administrators in order to bring about policy change.

Overall, we feel that administrators were open to hearing many of the demands we have made, and we are optimistic.

That being said, no amendments to the sexual assault policies or procedures have been approved, so we must continue advocating for change.

The administration needs to understand that the current policy has produced awful and unacceptable outcomes for many Oles, and that these changes are necessary. Our demands can be found here: https://mycollegeisprotectingrapists.wordpress.com/our-demands/

Over the course of the coming days, we will be providing clarification and offering more thorough rationale for many of our demands. Additionally, we will still be wearing our shirts and will continue to do so until there is adequate institutional reform on this campus.

We would like to emphasize that if you see any of us wearing a shirt, please continue to engage in discussion with us. We are interested in hearing the ideas and experiences of our peers and alumni. The administration’s willingness to accept policy change will be bolstered by the active involvement of the student body and concerned alumni.

In the meantime: current St. Olaf students, please join us in attending the event concerning sexual misconduct policy this Wednesday at 7:30 pm in Trollhaugen (3rd floor of Buntrock). The event is co-sponsored by the Title IX team, the Wellness Center and SARN. We hope to see you there!

POST-MEETING

Response to President David Anderson

This morning (April 2), President David Anderson sent this email to the Saint Olaf student body:

Dear Oles:

As many of you know, a recent college investigation into a charge of sexual assault has led to a controversy that has questioned both the sexual assault policy adopted by St. Olaf and the way it is implemented.

The criticisms and accusations being expressed on campus are of serious concern to all of us at St. Olaf.  Our policies addressing sexual violence have been developed with great care in order to prevent acts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault from happening, to stop them if they do occur, and to remedy their effects. While we have great confidence not only in the policies but also in the integrity and expertise of the individuals charged with carrying them out, no process is perfect. We welcome the St. Olaf community’s attention to this very important issue, and we welcome dialogue aimed at improving the process. We want to make sure that our process is fully understood and that it is open to continuous improvement.

I am going to request that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education conduct an independent review of our policies and their application to actual cases. We are inviting OCR’s review to ensure that our practices comply fully with federal standards and to demonstrate our commitment to transparency in our handling of these difficult cases.

In addition to this step, the St. Olaf Title IX team and I have invited the leaders of the concerned students vocalizing their discontent with the college’s policies to meet with us on Monday, April 4 so that we may listen to their concerns and suggestions.

That same week, the Title IX team, the Wellness Center and the student-led Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARN) will be co-hosting an education event for students about several Title IX policies.  This meeting had already been scheduled well before the events of this week transpired, and the concerned students have been encouraged to attend. [annotation: this meeting will take place Wednesday at 7:00pm in the Trollhaugen room in Buntrock Commons] 

We know that sexual assault is one of the most difficult, complicated, and emotionally-fraught issues that any college ever confronts.  We do the best job we know how to do in this challenging area, not only during the painful process of investigation, but in the aftermath as well.  In this, as in all areas of student life, we remain committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students.

PDA

We would like to publicly commend President David Anderson for what we see as a highly appropriate and professional response to the concerns we have raised.

That being said, this email means very little unless St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy and its manner of execution are reformed.

We look forward to engaging in conversations surrounding the St. Olaf sexual assault policy with administration, beginning Monday.

 

Correspondence with Administration

Earlier today all St. Olaf students, faculty and staff received this email from our administration:

Dear Members of the St. Olaf Community,

We are aware that concerns have been raised about St. Olaf’s response to sexual assault. Some of those concerns have to do with the outcome of a particular case, and others are about the appropriateness and effectiveness of our policies and procedures. We do not and will not publicly discuss the particulars of this or any other case. To do so would have a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward to seek help from the college, and could violate the privacy of the parties involved.

However, St. Olaf’s policies for preventing and addressing sexual assault are open, transparent, and forward-looking. You can view them online here.

While our policies and procedures already exceed federal and state mandates, we regularly make improvements, often in consultation with students, and we will continue to do so.

We also know that this is an area that is about people’s lives and the life of our community, and we remain committed to doing the best possible job we can do for the well-being of both.

Sincerely,

President David Anderson and Vice President Jo Beld, Title IX Coordinator

I felt that this sort of correspondence failed to acknowledge or address many of our concerns, and sent this email to the Title IX team and the President’s Leadership Team in response. I will publish it here for transparency and to make it clear how myself and others feel about the administration’s lack of response:

Hello,

I am writing to express my disappointment with the email sent out by President David Anderson and Vice President Jo Beld earlier today. I feel it grossly misinterprets the intentions of the actions of myself and the 10 other individuals wearing similar shirts.

First, the title of the aforementioned email “Concerns over Sexual Assault” should be “Concerns over the Sexual Assault Policy,” as we are raising awareness primarily about the inefficacies of St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy. Our concerns can be found here: https://mycollegeisprotectingrapists.wordpress.com/policy-failings-and-violations/

The email also insinuates that the privacy of certain individuals might be violated. While St. Olaf may not be allowed to speak about this case, it is my civil right to talk about my lived experience. Furthermore, our actions have taken every precaution possible to protect the identity of my assailant.

Then this email discusses the “chilling effect” that a public discussion of the failings of St. Olaf’s proceedings might have on the willingness of future survivors of sexual assault to report to administration. If telling the truth about the outcomes of your sexual assault policy and proceedings has a “chilling effect” on the comfort that students feel bringing problems to administrators, the problem lies with your policies, not with my attempt to share my story.

This email reeks of complacency with St. Olaf policies, which is a highly inappropriate response to the valid concerns that myself and other survivors and allies have raised.

Claiming St. Olaf’s sexual assault policy to be either “transparent” or “forward-thinking” is bizarre. The fact that St. Olaf’s policy is incredibly difficult to decipher has been a complaint of students for years: it is not transparent. The text of the policy can be found here: http://wp.stolaf.edu/title-ix/policy/

Neither is St. Olaf’s policy “forward-thinking.” In fact, the use of a single administrator to arbitrate cases of sexual assault seems downright medieval compared to Carleton’s policy which allows for a board of 12 highly trained administrators, students and faculty (description of Carleton’s board and their training: http://apps.carleton.edu/governance/sexualmisconduct/). Additionally, despite multiple requests on our part, no one in the administration has provided us with any details as to the training undergone by the Title IX team.

Whether St. Olaf policies and the manner in which they are carried out actually “exceed federal and state mandates” is up for debate, and in many ways besides the point. The amount of dissatisfied survivors that I have spoken with suggests that your procedures are harmful to victims of sexual assault. Furthermore, I have consulted with lawyers and organizations committed to executing the intentions set forth by Title IX. These people, as well as myself and other students agree that St. Olaf is failing to meet and certainly not exceeding these expectations, which is why I am currently in the process of filing a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Our purpose is to establish a dialogue, but this sort of email entirely fails to address the concerns that we raised.

If you are willing to engage myself and others in a constructive dialogue about the concerns above, we are willing to meet with you.

Madeline

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

~Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery

Standing up.