On Monday, senior Kayla Kennedy, joined by senior Gabrielle Rajerison and junior Allie Fry, addressed the faculty and administration on the dangers of mandatory reporting of sexual assault and harassment for all college employees. Following is the full text of their statement:
The college has recently decided that all professors, staff, and RAs are mandated reporters of sexual harassment and assault.
Rape is fundamentally about power and control. Demanding that all professors, staff, and RAs be mandatory reporters strips survivors of all power and control over if, when, and how they wish to report.
The executive director of the Association for Title IX administrators has called this across-the-board mandating an “overreaction to the Education Department’s [“Dear Colleague”] letter” that is “not desirable, legally required, or good for victims.”
Under this mandate, survivors lose all ownership over their own experiences because they are no longer free to voice those experiences in class discussions or even in written assignments. This denial of participation is a direct violation of Title IX, which ensures that all students, regardless of sex, must be allowed equal access to education. If survivors cannot own their deeply personal and political experiences without those experiences being automatically subject to administrative review, then their access to full participation in classes is traumatically limited. This policy silences survivors.
Sexual violence takes time to process. Every survivor deserves the space they need to process trauma on their own terms. Denying survivors, especially those students who are not certain or ready to identify themselves as such, safe spaces to process their experiences privately, without the threat of an investigation in which they are at risk of being re-victimized, is not only inhibiting to students’ ability to engage with academic and campus life — it is oppressive.
Students are now limited to confiding in 1 of 3 counselors, who are notoriously overbooked, who are all white, and with whom students may not have an established, trusting relationship. Every survivor has the right to speak in confidence with someone whom they feel safe with, whom they identify with, and whom they trust. The health & counseling center cannot become the only place in which students can talk confidentially about their experiences. This is an irresponsible move, especially considering that the center itself has been called into question time and time again by students who feel it is not a safe or accessible resource.
We are asking that Knox not only obey the law but prioritize students’ safety and well-being. Under the Clery Act, many employees of the college are exempt from mandatory reporting, including women’s centers and faculty who do not supervise clubs. We have to preserve safe spaces for students. We are not asking that no one be a mandatory reporter. We are asking that not EVERYONE be a mandatory reporter. Neither model serves students.
As our professors, advisors, and mentors, we are asking you to keep our academic spaces safe spaces. Keep survivors at the forefront. Understand the gravity of what is at stake. This policy silences and erases survivors, pushing them to the margins. We also ask that as policy undergoes changes, you maintain transparency in your classrooms. Students have a right to know if you are a mandated reporter, what exactly you must report, and what will happen to them after you report. Thank you for your time.
Editor’s note: Gabrielle Rajerison is a copy editor for The Knox Student.