LENA MASSAREGLI, Managing Editor—The death of Sarah Everard in London sent the world into overdrive. Everard was kidnapped and raped by a London police officer as she was walking home. Throughout her walk she wore bright, non-provocative clothing, was on the phone with her boyfriend, and walked through very public busy streets.
This is not the first time violence like this has happened, and there are actions engraved in some women’s heads just to keep them safe. Some are downloading apps to keep them safe, holding their keys in between our fingers, wearing more modest clothing, avoiding public transportation, calling people they trust, wearing flat shoes so it’s easier to run if need be.
As someone who goes to a private liberal arts college, I expected to feel safer here. But most of the time that is not the case. There is a problem on this campus: there have been several cases of sexual assault. Most of the people on this campus know at least one person who has been sexually harassed.
There are people throughout this campus who are scared to walk alone, only walk within a group, constantly check to see if their doors are locked, and in some cases go the extra mile to carry around pepper spray or any self-defense weapon allowed. Knowing about multiple confirmed cases throughout the campus and even in the dorm I live in makes me feel helpless and unheard. All we ask is to be able to feel safe in our own dorms, on our campus that is supposed to be the “home on the hill”.
There have been instances where students who have engaged in sexual misconduct have been allowed to stay on campus with no further consequences, which considering to the fact that they broke the Community Care Agreement, there should be more actions taken on the administration’s side of the incidents.
Last semester the community coordinator of Crawford hall held a zoom call with Stephanie Jackson, the title IX coordinator, to talk about title IX on campus. One of the students who attended was willing to open up about the feelings she has had on the fact that someone who was accused and arrested for sexual misconduct was still allowed to live in the dorms, and to top that, live on the same floor as her. That student asked Jackson if there were any coping mechanisms that she thinks could help her go about her day, knowing the accused is on her floor and she had to pass them multiple times a day. Students felt that Jackson just flipped the question around and had them think to themselves about what they think they should be doing, making them feel as though she could not say anything that could affect how they feel about these situations. Yet the entire point for having this zoom discussion was to get a sense of what the title IX coordinator would advise we do to make us all feel safe, not for our questions to get flipped back onto us.
During that meeting, the students had a question as to what constitutes a general warning being sent out to the university about a sexual misconduct incident. Jackson commented that the only reason we all got sent that email was that the Newark Advocate got a hold of the story, and no emails were sent concerning the other allegations because there was “no direct safety threat” and “no need to worry others” about the situations at hand. Yet on November 13th, we all got sent an email about the theft on campus, so the question remains: why does the school make it seem as though money and material possessions are more important than our own bodies?
That leaves us with a multitude of other questions. Why doesn’t Denison have a zero tolerance policy? When were these policies made and put in place? Who makes these policies and are students involved in the process of creating policies? Most of the events that lead to these questions being asked more frequently happened on campus throughout this school year, while we are all focusing on how to navigate school through COVID. What does that imply about our title IX policy on campus? It implies that the bar for repercussions on campus is so high that you can break COVID protocol and still not be prosecuted.
Being safe should be everyone’s first priority. But it feels as though this campus is overlooking all of the concern for wanting to make sure that people can walk to wherever they need to be on campus, at whatever time they need to go, without the fear of being harmed or a victim of sexual misconduct. There needs to be transparency within the community and title IX in order to help us feel safer on this campus. It is supposed to be our home for the four years we are here.
Lena Massaregli ’23 is a communication and creative writing double major from Pelham, NY.