Discussion surrounding sexual assault, racial profiling, and police brutality; clubs and admin not communicating
By KATIE KELLY and MEGHAN ZEA
THE EVENT that occurred at Reed College in the early hours of Sunday, Sept. 27 has brought larger questions about sexual assault policies, police brutality, and racial profiling to the surface on both Reed’s and Lewis & Clark’s campuses, leading students to discuss the best course of action to take moving forward.
In an initial email sent out by the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) on Sept. 28, the incident was detailed as one of sexual misconduct.
In reaction to this email, on Sept. 30 the Black Student Union (BSU) sent out the following message via social media and email detailing their position on the Reed incident stating that the “BSU believes that there is conversation to be had about where the issue of sexual assault may have intersected with racism and individual action.”
On Friday Oct. 2, the ASLC held an open forum at 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, following the weekly BSU meeting at 4:00 p.m.
Sydni Brooks ’18, Student Coordinator of the Feminist Student Union (FSU), recalls the discussion had at the forum. “I think it was a lot of people saying their feels, which was good because I think a lot of people needed to get their feels out,” Brooks said. “As far as productivity, I think it could have been more productive.”
Ryan Seed ‘17, an active member of BSU, states that the forum was much needed, but happened too late. “The forum was good to make sure that voices within the community had their voices heard, but unfortunately I argue the forum happened too late,” Seed said. “It took the ASLC five days to address the community in a formal setting about the incident at Reed. As a result, five days later LC community members were aware of the student’s race, and the fact that race could have been a factor in the excessive force from the police. As a result, five days later people were aware that three [Campus Safety Officers] and eight police officers were involved in the apprehending of the individual. As a result, only five days later students were made publically aware that the student was both pepper-sprayed and tazed twice.”
Additionally, many students voiced their concerns about the reaction — or lack of reaction — from the administration on the subject.
Students have questioned why Anna Gonzalez, Dean of Students, and Catherine Kodat, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences decided to only alert students and faculty about a hit-and-run incident that occurred during the same weekend. The Sept. 28 email named the student in the latter incident and the deans “wished to express [their] deepest condolences to the victim’s friends and loved ones.” Gonzalez’s reasons are rooted in the administration’s processes.
“That hit and run email was sent out under the advisement of other officials because that was so public … [The media] had named LC and [reporters] were coming to our campus,” Gonzalez said. “We wanted to let people know you don’t have to talk to reporters if they are in your face about your classmate,” Gonzalez said. “It just happened to be that on that same day ASLC sent out this email.”
Gonzalez claims that she decided not to release the name of the student involved in the Reed incident because his name was “not released during the time of the incident” and that she was “trying to honor that student” by keeping his name private. However, Gonzalez also asserts that this occurrence is not isolated.
“Things happened at Reed last year and the year before,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t send out emails about these issues because things happen all the time and if we sent out emails about students doing things on other campuses, students would get a lot of emails.”
With the administration not explicitly addressing what happened at Reed, student-led support groups like the BSU and the FSU felt overwhelmed and confused.
“I understand where they were coming from because there is a lot at play with confidentiality and there is a lot they can’t reveal and it’s hard to say without all the information, but I think there should have been more of a response,” Brooks said.
Looking toward the future, Seed shed light on the lack of protocol and transparency.
“To properly address the problem what needs to happen initially is for the students to know who the administration is,” Seed said. “At the forum last week administrators were frustrated about the language being used to group administrators into one category by simply addressing them as the ‘administrators.’ So when you ask me what kind of action steps the administration should have taken; first of all I don’t know who the administration is, nor do I know what power they actually have.”
Both Seed and Brooks stressed the importance of the administration contacting the FSU and BSU if and when future events arise.
“In terms of suggestions for future improvement, we have made very apparent at the forum [that] ASLC has access to all the student groups on campus,” Seed said. “As such, when issues concerning specific groups arise, these are the groups to contact [for] support and let the wider LC community know that they provide services.”
The FSU reiterated that sentiment.
“In relation to the administrations’ response — the administration needs to be much more communicative and transparent with the students,” Brooks said. “They should have contacted the groups specifically affected so we could construct steps moving forward around a conversation not only about sexual violence but also police brutality and racial profiling. They need to recognize that this isn’t just a conversation about the events that took place, but about the systems in place to oppress people. The administration needs to reach out more to groups like the FSU, BSU, and QSU and student advocacy groups alike so these conversations aren’t only held on the backs of students who are trying to get degrees but by this school as a whole.”
Daniela Lopez ’16, Student Body President, asserts that the recent events on Reed’s campus speak to a larger need to change the internal and external interactions of students.
“It’s not a matter of changing image, but a matter of changing actions,” Lopez said. “I think it’s a matter of how people focus on those actions and which actions they focus on. Our school can’t focus on the image until they focus on the sources of what produce that image. We have to start at the core, with students. The image will come out of there.”
To kickstart changing LC’s image, Lopez is in the process of collaborating with student unions like the BSU and FSU to create collective discussions about cross campus relations. Her plans for moving forward include reaching out to Reed’s student government to put on a forum in the next month for both Reed and LC students to discuss the themes raised by the most recent incidents.
“We envision this upcoming forum to not just a student government to student government thing, but a student body to student body thing,” Lopez said. “First, we are going to have a conversation with Reed so LC students can better understand Reed’s campus and so that we can all gain an understanding of each other’s cultures. Secondly, if we have that understanding of each other’s campus cultures, we can decide what to do to make sure that those cultures are respected. It brings me a lot of pride that our students go over [to Reed] to take classes and that Reed students come over here for speakers and events. I don’t think that collaboration should end there. I think it has an opportunity to be present in social life but because of our shared history, I’m not as confident that can happen.”
Students interested in having a role in planning the ASLC and Reed student government forum are invited to email Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BSU has also created an action plan in the aftermath of the events at Reed. In the hopes of creating a more benevolent relationship with Reed, BSU will dedicate its club meetings, held every Friday at 4:00 p.m., to this relationship.
“In a nutshell, the idea is to humanize both Reed students for LC students and LC students for Reed students,” Seed said. “Ideas like such have not only been present in the BSU, but FSU has brought up ideas along the same lines.”
In terms of sexual misconduct policy, the FSU has been trying to pressure the administration to change the LC policy for a while. According to Brooks, the survivors of sexual violence use the FSU as a place for safety and support because the system has failed them so many times. “Those people [faculty who are Sexual Assault Response Advocates] have time and time again fallen short of their commitment to survivors because this isn’t their sole job and they have other responsibilities,” Brooks said. “The lack of sexual violence awareness on campus needs to be addressed by both the administration and the student body.”
The FSU is advocating for sexual violence survivors by trying to change the way sexual misconduct is handled on campus. “So, we want one paid position, someone hired by the school to be these survivors’ sole advocate that will take them step by step through everything,” Brooks said.
Brooks mentions that while the administration is powerful, there is a certain power in a student as well. “There is a large part that is beyond the administration,” Brooks said. “We ourselves are responsible for the discussions we have and for the actions that we do. As students, we have to hold ourselves accountable and not just hold the administration accountable because it is really easy to blame them. We [the students] are the ones here having this discussion. While it seems like they are this almighty powerful force, I think we have more power.”