Three Occidental College Seniors, Rachel Baer (Politics), Fátima A. Avellán (Urban and Environmental Policy), and Nona Gronert (Sociology) completed their senior comprehensives on the topics of sexual assault and its prevention. Their extensive work provides a more complete picture of the experiences of survivors of sexual violence at Oxy and outlines best practices for sexual assault prevention at Liberal Arts colleges, including Occidental.
Baer, who received honors and distinction for her research, surveyed survivors at Occidental, gathering information about patterns of violence on campus, experiences reporting, and how violence has impacted people’s experiences as Oxy students. “Action as Deliberate Indifference: Sexual Assault at Occidental College” ultimately finds Oxy in violation of Title IX and the guidelines in the Dear Colleague Letter. Baer’s research paints a very disturbing but true picture of what sexual assault actually looks like at Oxy which will hopefully be used as a powerful tool to combat violence on campus.
Avellán’s distinction awarded research explored best practices for prevention efforts at Liberal Arts colleges, using Oxy, Carleton College, and Pomona as case studies. Avellán conducted extensive interviews with administrators, faculty, and students at the three institutions to address her research question: “What are the determining factors (or “pre-conditions”) that help lead small liberal arts colleges to achieve best practices and policies for sexual violence prevention?” Avellán identifies six determining factors in her findings and provides recommendations to help Occidental improve their prevention efforts.
Gronert’s research on consent, which earned distinction, addressed the question: “What role do ideas about sexual consent play in people’s perceptions of sex scenes in popular media?” Gronert used clips from TV shows and interviewed 19 students finding there was no unified interpretation of sexual consent. These findings communicate a serious need for clarification on campuses of how one can ask for consent and under what conditions sexual permission can and cannot be communicated.
Avellán, Gronert, and Baer have spent their last semesters at Occidental doing amazing, important work and we appreciate and acknowledge the powerful tools for reform they have provided not only the Oxy community, but the greater cause of eradicating sexual violence from college campuses. We thank them for their work and allowing us to share it here!
Occidental College Subject of Federal Investigation by Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
Today, OSAC received a letter from the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announcing its investigation into allegations made by OSAC in its 250-page complaint against Occidental College submitted on Thursday, April 18th, 2013. From the OCR’s letter to lead complainants, Professor Caroline Heldman and Professor Danielle Dirks, the federal complaint alleges the following:
- Students at the College have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual violence by other students and a College staff member, and the College has failed to respond appropriately and effectively to notice of the sexual harassment and sexual violence.
- The College has failed to respond adequately to internal complaints filed by students alleging that students had been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual violence, dating back to the 2010-2011 academic year.
- Students who have filed complaints with the College regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence have been subjected to intimidation and retaliation by College administrators and by other students, including further sexual harassment by other students, and the College has failed to respond appropriately and effectively to notice of the intimidation and retaliation.
- Employees and students who have advocated that the College change its policies and procedures with respect to preventing and responding to sexual harassment and sexual violence have been retaliated against by administrators at the College.
- The College’s consistent failure to respond adequately to complaints by students of sexual harassment and sexual violence has created a hostile environment on campus on the basis of sex.
- The College has not adopted and published grievance procedures providing for the prompt and equitable resolutions of complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual assault and sexual violence.
We are grateful to the original 37 (now 42) individuals who bravely shared their experiences of sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault, rape, and retaliation at Occidental College with OSAC in order to seek justice when the institution failed them.
We are grateful to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights San Francisco Office for their prompt examination of our complaint. We understand that the OCR’s quick response has been one of the fastest in Title IX history. We look forward to assisting them with every stage of their investigation into Occidental’s mishandling and treatment of sexual misconduct.
Please find the OCR’s response to our complaint below.
We just received these pictures from our allies at Swarthmore College! Swarthmore and Occidental became tied when the New York Times first reported Swarthmore’s federal Clery complaint alongside Occidental’s federal Office for Civil Rights complaint on April 18th, 2013.
Swarthmore Allies – We love you and wish you all the best in filing your Title IX complaint!
If you’re at a US college or university and would like assistance or information about filing Clery or Title IX complaints, we would love to help you! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook!
OSAC is part of a growing national network of individuals and organizations at schools across the nation (hi, UNC-Chapel Hill, Amherst, Yale, USC, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth and friends!) who are pushing their schools to make real change to ensure that all students have a safe learning experience free from sexual violence wherever they attend college. You can find additional information via the Know Your IX campaign!
Are you an alumni, parent or ally in support of changing Oxy’s sexual assault policies? Please add your name to OCASA’s Resolution to Demand Change below by emailing your name and your class year (or your child’s class year) here or to email@example.com or by adding your name to the comment section below the letter.
Thank you, OCASA! We are incredibly grateful to you for adding your voices to the chorus demanding real, effective, and immediate changes for a safe and equitable Occidental!
Thank you, Oxy staff and administrators, for your May 6th resolution to demand sexual assault policy changes that will support students and survivors.
We are incredibly grateful to the support you have provided to Oxy students in making our campus a great place to live, learn, and work.
Given the level of retaliation that staff, faculty, and students at Occidental College have already faced for speaking up against sexual assault issues on our campus, we appreciate the great risks you are taking in such a public display of support.
We applaud your efforts and stand with you! All 94 of you!!*
Thank you for creating an Oxy that makes us all proud!
*Anyone with an asterisk by their name below has been named in either the Clery and/or Office for Civil Rights federal complaints filed by OSAC.
Letter to the Occidental College Community
We, the undersigned Occidental College staff and administrators, reaffirm the right of all students to live, work, and study on a safe campus where equity prevails.
We, the undersigned Occidental College staff and administrators, recognize and commend the courageous efforts of the members of the Occidental community who are working to ensure that sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault and rape have no place in our community.
We, the undersigned Occidental College staff and administrators, agree that there must be changes to the sexual assault policies, there must be procedural integrity in hearing board cases, there must be additional resources for sexual assault and rape survivors, and that there must be significant, on-going sexual harassment, battery, assault and rape education for all students.
We, the undersigned Occidental College staff and administrators, vow to work constructively and tirelessly to transform the policies and underlying culture of Occidental College toward the elimination of sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault and rape.
Yady Barajas ‘97
Heather Blackstone Bartolome
Samantha Bonar ‘90
Joan A. Brewer
Matthew Calkins ‘96
Aubree Cedillo ‘95
Helena de Lemos
John de La Fontaine
Shawn G. Ferrara
Heng Lam Foong
Mandlenkosi Gobledale ’10
Jim Herr ‘86
Peter Indall ‘09
Agne Jomantaite ‘11
Natalie Kolodinski ‘10
Marie B. Lamothe-François
Andrew Larkin ’12
Irene Li ‘12
Dana Marshall ‘09
Marisa Grover Mofford
Krizia Oasin ‘12
Lindsay Dold O’Sullivan
Erik Quezada ‘09
Michelle Saldana ‘03
Valerie Savior ‘85
Marie Scott ’01
Amanda Shaffer ‘02
Richard Shive ‘61
Rebecca Siegel ‘09
Lisa Spencer ’99
Dale Ann Stieber
Wesley Hayato Tomatsu ‘01
Manuel A. Valverde ‘12
Jim Wheat ‘74
To the Faculty of Occidental College:
OSAC thanks every faculty member who helped pass the vote of “no confidence” for Dean of Students Barbara Avery and College Counsel/Trustee Carl Botterud at the Special Faculty Meeting held on May 6th. We thank you for exercising your rights to advocate on behalf of survivors and their allies, and for standing in solidarity with those who will no longer tolerate institutional mistreatment, especially from administrators hired to protect the students they serve.
Your vote today has displayed that the Occidental College Faculty is genuinely committed to: holding this institution and its administrators accountable for actions taken against survivors; supporting survivors and allies on our campus; and building a safer community free from sexual violence.
Today’s vote has also proven to be another example of how Oxy’s faculty involvement has been a vital component in the movement’s efforts to reshape how the college addresses sexual assault and eradicate sexual violence from our community.
OSAC stands by the Oxy College Faculty and appreciates their momentous decision today. The journey for a campus culture that is equitable, just, and safe will be a long one, but we are proud that our faculty will embark on that journey with us. Thank you all for making history, helping to make Oxy a safer place, and joining us in this fight for justice.
The Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition
Oxy Faculty Vote “No Confidence” for Dean of Student Barbara Avery and College Counsel Carl Botterud
After several weeks devoted to special “Teaching Faculty Meetings” on sexual assault issues on campus and passing a Faculty Resolution, the Oxy Faculty this morning voted “no confidence” for Dean of Students Barbara Avery and College Counsel Carl Botterud in an Executive Session held today to vote on the resolutions. The meeting lasted 1.5 hours and came to a vote on both of the resolutions below. After the votes were tallied and announced, those faculty remaining cheered. This has been a long struggle to create a safe and equitable campus, but the process to repairing the damage to our campus must begin here.
As OSAC discovered in filing federal Clery and Office for Civil Rights complaints, the sexual assault problems at Oxy have been more of a “people problem” than a “policy problem.” Oxy can have the best policies and procedures in the nation, but if the administrators responsible for implementing them are unwilling or unable to uphold these policies and procedures, we are still left with a broken institution and system.
Once again, we applaud the Oxy Faculty for stepping up in supporting survivors and students across our campus and sending a message to the rest of the nation that college and university Administrations must take sexual assault issues on their campuses seriously. From an email Faculty Council President Amy Lyford:
Today, at the Special Meeting of the Occidental Faculty, the Teaching Faculty went into Executive Session.
During that executive session, the faculty voted (by paper ballot) on Two Motions .
Motion 1. A vote of no confidence in the College Counsel, Carl Botterud.
Motion 2. A vote of no confidence in the Dean of Students, Barbara Avery.
These motions were approved by majority vote as follows, and are now being forwarded to the President:
Motion 1: 70 Yes, 6 No, 4 Abstain.
Motion 2: 65 Yes, 9 No, 6 Abstain.
While these votes are not binding, we hope this large symbolic victory will be one of many more moves among faculty and staff to push the Occidental College Administration to implement real, immediate, and meaningful change around sexual assault issues on campus. It will now be up to President Jonathan Veitch to stand with the faculty, students, alumni, parents, and staff in leading Occidental College toward being a national leader on campus sexual assault issues.