Thursday evening, the Skidmore community received the the following email sent on behalf of SGA President Addison Bennett ’16 and Senior Class President Soraya Attia ’15:
Dear Friends, Peers, Classmates, and all Skidmore Community Members,
As members of this community, we are writing in support of the recent efforts to bring attention to sexual and gender-based misconduct (SGBM) at Skidmore. This is an issue we have been working as SGA to address since the start of the academic year. Through the It’s Happening Here campaign and our work with the Advisory Council on SGBM, we have made strides to effect concrete policy changes that prioritize student safety and promote a zero-tolerance environment. Reina Kiefer’s readmission hearing protest on March 13 is one of the many examples of activism we have been calling for this year. We urge students to attend this peaceful protest to show our Student Body’s support for survivors across our campus. SGBM happens far too often at Skidmore and, as students, we must stand up together and work to prevent it.
It is time to become the zero-tolerance campus we wish to be. When a community member commits a sexual crime, we should not welcome that person on our campus. SGA has been working with the Advisory Council, the Vice President/Dean of Student Affairs, and other parties to make significant revisions to the SGBM policy, including:
- Changing sanction language to state that the College expects the SGBM Hearing Board to expel students found in violation in all cases of SGBM.
- When the Board does not choose expulsion, it must justify its decision in a written rationale for the case’s official record, which would be available to both parties.
- Expanding definitions of SGBM to include types of misconduct Skidmore does not currently account for, such as emotional and financial abuse.
Thanks to the work of the many student leaders and the responsiveness of the Advisory Council to our serious recommendations, we are proud to announce that changes along these lines and more are likely to be added to the official policy very soon.
We know the numbers. Too many students of all gender identities experience SGBM while at college. Furthermore, the statistics available to us at this moment suggest that offenders will take advantage of other individuals more than once. According to Jed Rubenfeld in his 2014 New York Times article, Mishandling Rape, “Research suggests that more than 90 percent of campus rapes are committed by a relatively small percentage of college men — possibly as few as 4 percent — who rape repeatedly, averaging six victims each. Yet these serial rapists overwhelmingly remain at large, escaping serious punishment.” At the start of this year, we knew we needed to work toward practices that acknowledge this reality and adequately sanction all sexual offenders.
We are proud to say that progress has already been made so that students will not have to go through what Reina is going through moving forward. However, at this moment, there are wrongs that must be corrected if Skidmore truly does hold its community values to a high standard. We are here to represent and stand by each and every student on this campus and to advocate for what is right.
As student leaders — but most importantly, as Skidmore students — who have taken on this task of advocating for changes to our policy and culture, we have been heartbroken and humbled to hear stories from our friends and peers who have experienced SGBM at Skidmore. Whatever our policies may state, in the very real experiences of these innocent survivors, Skidmore does not always appear to prioritize their needs over those of the individuals found in violation.
To Hearing Board administrators and faculty: We implore you to remember the voice of the student body and the changes we have been advocating. Do not allow rapists to be a part of our community.
To the students: We urge you to take notice of this issue, educate yourself, and take steps to establish yourself as our ally against SGBM. We look forward to changes not only to our policy, but also to our culture, and we need your commitment to achieve that end.
To survivors: We admire your strength, and we offer you our advocacy as peers and friends. Please know that you have the support of an overwhelming majority of students and their representatives through SGA. We respect the difficult burden that you must bear, and we hope that the increased attention drawn to this issue will serve to combat without causing further harm.
We hope that our friends, peers, and classmates become our allies in setting Skidmore’s community standards on sexual and gender-based misconduct to a level as high we believe they should be.
Soraya and Addison