The college’s policy on mandatory reporting of sexual assault and harassment finds its roots in an admirable goal: to identify and take action against serial offenders, ultimately making the campus a safer place for all. But the administrators must realize the unintended consequences of this policy — namely, the deprivation of a sense of agency for victims and survivors.
The mandatory reporting policy requires any employee of the college to report any instance of sexual assault or harassment against a student — regardless of whether the victim told a professor, adviser or staff member about an incident in confidence. Last week, a group of students addressed faculty and administrators on the dangers of mandated reporting, drawing support from faculty and reluctance from administrators.
Ultimately, this policy prevents students from reaching out to the people they trust on campus. Under the current system, only three overbooked college counselors, who a victim might not even know, are allowed to offer confidentiality to a victim.
While it’s unclear whether faculty members observe this policy (just as some choose not to report Honor Code violations), the strong showing of students at last week’s faculty meeting made it abundantly clear that this system is not in the best interest of student victims whose concerns should be the college’s primary concern. While stopping serial offenders is an important goal, we must prioritize the concerns of victims who already exist among us.
As Kayla Kennedy, Allie Fry and Gabrielle Rajerison pointed out to the faculty, this issue surrounds the victim’s sense of agency and being in control of how they want to report — on their own terms. For any given victim, dragging out the incident through interviews with Campus Safety and other college officials could serve as a continual trigger.
It would follow that removing that sense of choice and empowerment would have a kind of chilling effect on campus. It would defeat the purpose of Take Back the Night, forcing victims to be on their guard at all times instead of feeling secure in their environment. Moreover, a campus environment that forces victims to report inadvertently places blame on the victim who chooses not to.
So let’s create as many safe spaces as possible, while preventing this campus wide discussion from falling to the wayside.
But who is Knox College to say that a victim should no longer have the right not to report? In dismantling rape culture, Knox must create an open environment that encourages reporting, but forced openness will not achieve that goal.
Editor’s note: Gabrielle Rajerison is a copy editor for The Knox Student.