Students at three Atlanta colleges have spearheaded a social-media campaign, #WeKnowWhatYouDid, crafted to call attention to sexual-assault and sexual-harassment problems at their institutions, including naming alleged offenders as part of that effort.
Now, more than 70 professors at Spelman College, have signed an open letter expressing support for the campaign and acknowledged their roles in combating sexual violence on campus.
Dear Spelman students,
Many of you have tweeted, talked about, or been triggered by the recent hashtag #WeKnowWhatYouDid. You are brave, courageous, and among the best this world has to offer. You are not alone. Thank you for being bold in your declarations and firm in your commitments to end sexual violence and sexual assault. For those who did not share and may feel alone, we see you. You do not owe any of us your story, just as you do not owe anyone your body or spirit.
We are a group of faculty who are committed to ending sexual violence and sexual harassment in the AUC. We want you to know that we love you, we support you, we will fight with and for you, and we will co-create an environment where you are safe. We share your outrage and disgust. No student at Spelman (or any of the AUC schools) should experience a hostile environment in which sexual assault or sexual harassment is commonplace.
The fight to change institutional culture in the AUC does not rest solely on your shoulders. We as faculty have a part to play, too. We are committed to making our classrooms safe for all, including gender non-conforming and trans students who may face additional threats of harm. We are committed to challenging the status quo—pedagogically and institutionally. You came here because you trust our institution to invest in your highest self. As an institution we have an obligation to protect you. Because of your bravery and courage, change starts now. You have shown us that our silence does not protect any of us and especially not you.
We know that it is not enough to say we love and support you. Our actions need to follow. Consider this our public declaration that we are here to do the long, challenging, and tiring work of changing policies and attitudes around sexual assault and sexual harassment.
As we collectively work toward change and healing, please remember to take care of yourselves and each other. Find or make space for some laughter, joy, and self-care that remind you that you are here, you are loved, and you are valuable. And in moments when you need an extra hand or an ear, consider us part of your network of support and resources.
We love you. We are proud of you.
According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, students have used #WeKnowWhatYouDid to tell their stories of being assaulted and not taken seriously by campus administrators, and to implore officials to improve their response to reports of rape.
The decision by some students to publicly accuse particular people of committing sexual assaults prompted criticism that doing so was unfair to men who had not been formally accused. A few of those who were named have spoken out on Twitter to defend themselves.
Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D weighed in on the matter in a letter sent to Spelman parents.
Dear Spelman Parents,
I can well imagine that recent social media conversations about sexual misconduct have raised concerns about safety on the campus of Spelman College. Every Spelman student deserves an excellent education in a safe and supportive environment and, in providing that education, I would like you to know that the College has zero-tolerance towards sexual misconduct of any kind.
In the past two years, the Office of the President, in solidarity with students and faculty, has taken major steps to continue to make Spelman a campus that is safe for all students by enhancing our Title IX compliance efforts in the following ways:
1. We have built a professional Title IX & Compliance Office and enhanced staffing to respond quickly to every reported incidence of sexual misconduct. (Please take a look at resources available on our Title IX website.) As a result, students who report to the Title IX Office or the Dean of Students can be assured of a sympathetic hearing, a review of their options, counseling or medical assistance if needed, and a swift and thorough investigation and adjudication on the part of both the Title IX Office and the Dean of Students.
2. The College instituted mandatory Title IX training for all Spelman employees with a special emphasis on first responders to make sure that everyone on campus understands how to respond quickly and effectively to any reports of sexual misconduct.
3. In collaboration with student groups, Spelman has enhanced educational programs aimed at prevention of sexual violence. This week, the Sex Discrimination Student Commission and Spelman Student Government Association planned a series of activities in acknowledgement of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Known as RAINN Week, activities involve education through workshops and events about consent, bystander intervention, support for survivors and a Take Back the Night March.
4. Additionally, each vice president at the College is responsible for overseeing how their units can help promote the values and practices that will help reinforce the fact that sexual misconduct is unacceptable under any circumstance.
Recent social media conversations alert us that we must do even more. We must do our best to foster an environment in which victims feel safe and comfortable to come forward to report unwanted contact, harassment or misconduct of any sort. As a community, we must also make it clear that not only is it unacceptable for any member of our community to perpetrate an act of sexual misconduct, it is also unacceptable to excuse, condone, dismiss or remain silent about any form of sexual misconduct.
This week I will host a student town hall to discuss these issues and make sure that students are aware of all of the resources available to them. Finally, as parents, you are invited to share with us your concerns and suggestions. Encourage your daughters to report any information they have about incidents and to access the resources and support services we have put in place, if needed.
Sexual misconduct is a societal issue and at Spelman we believe that our mission and values call for us to be leaders as important conversations take place not only at Spelman, but nationwide.
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
Media officers for Morehouse and Clark Atlanta told The Chronicle last week that they had encouraged students to file formal complaints or report incidents through an anonymous hotline.