Day 2: U. Title IX office protesters left dissatisfied after U. response, send letter to administration, Zachary Shevin and Claire Silberman | May 8, 2019
The University has responded to the demands of the Title IX office protesters engaging in a sit-in outside of Nassau Hall, saying that it will refer concerns to the appropriate University committees, but it will not consider the protesters’ “unfounded calls for the termination of University employees.”
Unsatisfied with the response, the activists still plan to demonstrate hourly and to camp out in front of Nassau Hall overnight as of the time of this publication. In addition, they have drafted a letter to President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun asking them to meet “outside” by 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“While we appreciate your time, the response did not address our concerns. Ten out of eleven of our demands were entirely ignored,“ the protesters wrote. “Your letter communicated your belief that your current efforts are adequate. As we have noted, they are not.”
At approximately 3:10 p.m., Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne handed multiple copies of a University response to the current situation to Aisha Tahir ’21, who distributed the copies to various protesters.
The response begins by stating that the University “is committed to ensuring that all of its community members can learn, work, and thrive in a safe, supportive, and fair environment, free from sexual misconduct and all forms of discrimination.” It goes on to explain the University’s present sexual misconduct policies, resources, and the Title IX process.
The statement says that the University appreciates student input on these important issues and says that the concerns raised will be referred to “the appropriate University committees.”
“That said,“ the statement continues, “unfounded calls for the termination of University employees are inappropriate and will not be considered further.”
The protestors met at 8 p.m. to discuss the statement from the University and how to respond accordingly. They drafted a letter that was sent to Eisgruber, Calhoun, Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne, and The Daily Princetonian.
The protesters requested that Calhoun and Eisgruber meet “in front of our coalition” with “a delegation from our coalition.”
“Students continue in pain from the broken Title IX system, and it is imperative that you take the time to speak and negotiate with us,“ they wrote. “We understand that these systems are deeply entrenched, but it is up to all those in our community to provide a safer and more just campus.”
The protester’s demands originally included calls for additional transparency and the dismissal of Title IX administrator Regan Crotty. The letter added that the protesters are “willing to amend our eleventh demand regarding the dismissal of Reagan Crotty to a call for the annual external review of the current and future holders of the Title IX Coordinator position.”
In addition, the protesters have sent out a pledge for both current students and alumni to sign, promising to abstain from alumni giving until the protesters’ demands are met. As of the time of this publication, that pledge has received 513 signatures.
The protesters plan to spend their second night outside of Nassau Hall. According to Tahir, the protesters were reminded by Dunne and the administration that they are not allowed to sleep outside.
Title IX reform protesters have participated in a sit-in in front of Nassau Hall for over 35 hours. The first day of the protest saw the crowdsourcing and discussion of 11 demands via Google Docs and Forms. Later in the evening, several activists braved a rain storm to keep up the momentum of the Title IX reform protests.
This sit-in follows several months of protests and graffiti on campus that aim to demonstrate their misgivings against the Title IX process.
Despite a promise by Calhoun for the administration to respond to the demands by 11 a.m., the University did not issue any statement until 3:19 p.m. Originally, the University delayed its response to “later” in the day, according to a message from the administration to the activists. Tahir read the message aloud to the rest of the protesters.
“The University has received the students [sic] concerns, take them seriously, and will be making a public statement later today. We would like to reiterate what Vice President Calhoun stated earlier that we will not be responding directly to each of points [sic] raised yesterday,“ the statement read.
Protesters noted that they felt the response was incomplete, and Rebecca Sobel ’19 said that she thought there would be more of an active dialogue and a more substantial response than “two grammatically incorrect sentences that sounded like they were kind of drafted as we were shouting ‘Response Now.’“
“We got a response at 11:28 a.m. today that was very opaque and left no information, and so we’re waiting,“ noted protester Nathan Poland ’20.
The protesters remained on Nassau lawn, demonstrating on the hour. For every demonstration, the protesters discussed one of their demands.
“[Calhoun] explicitly said, ‘at 11 a.m. we will respond,’ and they didn’t even follow up on that,“ Sobel said. “I had really, really low expectations, and now I feel like I have no expectations.
When describing the fifth demand, a demand for “a group of full time, professional social workers independent of the Title IX office, SHARE, and Counseling and Psychological services to help survivors navigate the Title IX system,” Sobel read aloud a statement from a University faculty member.
“During such emotionally trying times, every student should have access to an advocate who can help them process information and find their voice, who can assist in asking questions and getting answers,“ the faculty member wrote.
Tahir said the protesters plan to continue demonstrating and still plan to stay overnight. According to Tahir, the protesters are still waiting for the administration to come and speak to them and are trying their best to give them time to come.
“Our plans have not changed yet,“ she said. “I think what we’re right now waiting for is for them to come and speak to us, and we’re willing to negotiate and talk.”
Soon after the administrative statement, protesters began making posters both advertising the demonstration and listing seven ways students can help with the protest, which included staying in front of Nassau Hall, pledging to withhold donations to the University, getting support from faculty and administrators, and anonymously submitting stories of experiences involving Title IX.
At 4:36 p.m., Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) Anne McClintock spoke in front of Nassau Hall in support of many of the protesters’ demands. By this point, the crowd of demonstrators had grown to around 100. She spoke to the protesters’ demand to deal with compounded violations with an intersectional framework.
“What many people do not know is it was black women who called for Title IX in the first place,“ she said. “Black Lives Matter cannot be seen separate from the sexual assault movement. They are deeply intersected … We cannot separate the systems of sexual and gender and racial violence.”
McClintock went on to endorse the protesters’ demand for GSS departmentalization as well. Additionally, she spoke out against “the hype about alcohol” in relation to sexual violence, saying that alcohol is not the cause of sexual assault and that “if you are not a perpetrator … having a few drinks is not going to turn you into one.”
She also went on to discuss an experience she had working at the University of Wisconsin attempting to help a student navigate the Title IX process.
“We entered a labyrinth of lies,“ she said. “We then filed a Title IX complaint, and it was successful, and we brought 30 campuses in Wisconsin under federal investigation for violation of Title IX rights and changed the process at Wisconsin.”
The system at Wisconsin, she said, is “very similar to the broken system that’s still in place at Princeton” because of a lack of transparency, and she endorsed the protesters’ demands for increased transparency.
McClintock also said that “universities have a brand name to protect,“ and therefore incentives to under-investigate and under-report assault. Because of this, she said that there is a necessity to devise a third way between the carceral system and the in-house system to deal with accusations of sexual assault. Because of this, she also endorsed the protesters’ demand for the University to fund a group of full-time social workers independent of the University.
At 5 p.m., Department of Sociology Professor Elizabeth M. Armstrong spoke on behalf of the GSS faculty in endorsing the demand to departmentalize GSS at the University, “to give it an intellectual platform to provide education students and the entire campus community on these critical issues.”
Following words from Armstrong, demonstrators chanted “Education is preventative.”
Protesters remained in front of Nassau Hall throughout the night. At 1:52 a.m., 10 students remained, and at 4 a.m., six students were present.
“It seems to be maintaining its influence in a really inspiring way,“ Bhavani Srinivas ’20 said at 5:33 a.m. Thursday morning. “I think there’s a lot of people across campus that are coming here, and a really dedicated core group of people aren’t backing down.”
This story is breaking and will be updated as information becomes available.