Earlier this semester, a Princeton University graduate student, Vanessa, described the substantial toll the Title IX process took on both her physical and mental health, and the retribution she felt she faced from fellow classmates. Vanessa is far from the first person to feel that the University had failed to adequately support her through the Title IX process. In January, an undergraduate student, Sadie, wrote about how she was unable to seek justice against her perpetrator through the University’s sexual misconduct process, since he had already graduated.
Both Vanessa and Sadie are pseudonyms given to the women by the ‘Prince’ due to privacy and safety concerns.
And then, of course, there are the countless other stories that have gone untold on this campus. We cannot ignore how disempowering the University’s handling of Title IX and sexual misconduct cases can feel.
The Princeton administration and student community must improve the support system for survivors. We call on the University to increase trauma-informed care of survivors during the Title IX and sexual misconduct reporting and investigation processes, including making it easier for survivors to have access to supportive measures, such as No Contact Orders and Persona Non Grata that help ensure student safety. We also call on students to eliminate a culture of victim blaming, which will contribute greatly to humanizing survivors and the Title IX process.
Sadie’s case was dismissed by Princeton because her perpetrator graduated. As long as the University wants to remain a welcoming place for its community — current students and alumni included — administrators must be more proactive in making sure that investigations of alumni are seen to completion and those who are found to have committed misconduct on campus are not welcomed back. Survivors may feel very unsafe on campus, especially if they are not able to obtain short-term Persona Non Grata or No Contact Orders at a time when their safety should be the utmost priority. There is no reason that the University should not be providing these measures for students. These policies are considered supportive measures by Title IX, meaning that there does not need to be a judgment on a case for a University to provide them.
Although Sadie was covered by the University’s sexual misconduct policy for the investigation, she retained her Title IX-protected rights, including the right for the University to “consider supportive measures, as appropriate and reasonably available.” In Sadie’s case, and in the case of students whose perpetrators either graduate before a report is made or graduate in the midst of the Title IX or Sexual Misconduct investigation process, granting a Persona Non Grata is both appropriate and reasonable.
In a letter to the editor in January responding to Sadie’s piece, Michele Minter, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity and the University’s Title IX Coordinator, stated that these supportive measures are already available to survivors; but even one student alleging that these support systems were out of reach for her means we must reconsider how these measures are being applied.
No survivor should have to worry about encountering their perpetrators on campus or having their personal information exploited by them. The University needs to be vigilant about implementing in practice the supportive measures it is committed to within its Title IX and sexual misconduct policies. There is nothing written in University policy that prevents the University from instituting Persona Non Gratae. These measures, when properly utilized, support the University’s goals of making students feel safe as they are dealing with traumatic situations.
These procedural changes must be supported by an increase in trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual assault, including an increased focus on understanding the day-to-day effects of trauma on survivors and providing information regarding University policy to them in formats that are easy to understand and digest.
Alongside these policy changes, our attitudes as a community also need to change. Some survivors face victim blaming and retribution from their fellow classmates, which exacerbates the preexisting trauma of assault and other violence. Students came to Princeton to learn from, live alongside, and freely exchange with fellow students; these aspirations are impossible unless every single person feels safe on campus. To fully realize the vision of a community, we must all commit to minimizing the prevalence of assault and treating survivors of assault with empathy and care.
We also need to drastically strengthen our communal norms against sexual misconduct. It is incumbent upon students to enforce a zero-tolerance policy in their own lives and communities. The numbers of undergraduates who have experienced sexual misconduct are high — and that number also speaks to another large number: the number of undergraduates who have committed sexual misconduct, and an even larger number of undergraduates who have enabled them. We must listen to the survivors who continually say that they have not gotten the support they need on campus.
Trauma-informed care and treatment of survivors need to be a priority on campus. We urge the University and the student body to work together to drastically improve the culture for survivors. Until then, they will only continue to suffer in silence.
146th Editorial Board
Rooya Rahin ’23
Caitlin Limestahl ’23
Genrietta Churbanova ’24
Mohan Setty-Charity ’24
Rohit Narayanan ’24
Abigail Rabieh ’25
Ndeye Thioubou ’25
Lucia Wetherill ’25