Discourse / Letters / April 13, 2016

Letter to the editor: Administration: We can move forward together

Thoughts from the new VP for Student Development: A response to the TKS Editorial Board

I write this letter as a direct response to both the most recent Thoughts from the Embers regarding administrative communication, particularly regarding Title IX issues, and to Carly Taylor’s letter on the same.

Let me take a moment to introduce myself. Yes, I am a part of the administration. But just as Carly hopes that we will see her as an individual, I hope that you will see me as one, too.

I, like all of you, have several identities. I am an administrator and an educator, but I am also a daughter, a partner, a new member of this community and a survivor of sexual violence. My list goes on as well.

As a survivor of sexual violence, I get — to the extent that it’s possible to “get” another person’s lived experience — why you’re frustrated with our communication. I get that it isn’t working for you.

I get why emailed surveys may seem symptomatic of a lack of sensitivity and lack of unity. The climate survey exists because it’s important. It’s important because it allows us to gather anonymous — and, therefore, hopefully honest — information regarding what students think, believe and experience on this campus. It’s important because it allows us to measure progress from year to year. It’s important because it allows us to hear from students who may not feel comfortable speaking through TKS or BuzzFeed.

I know a climate survey is not enough. It tells one piece of a story. The editorials and letters in TKS tell another piece. Social media tells a third. The formal and informal conversations we have within this community — both one-on-one and in larger venues — tell yet a fourth. And there are many more. As a new member of this community, I’m doing my best to understand the whole story. I read TKS. I follow social media. I read the BuzzFeed article. I talk to students. I talk to my colleagues.

Here is what I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that some of you feel disregarded and dehumanized. I’m sorry. I say that not as an administrator trying to present a certain persona on behalf of the institution; I say it as one human being, who has herself felt disregarded and dehumanized, to another: I’m sorry.

I’ve learned that some of you felt victimized by your experience with our Title IX process. While I can’t speak directly to what happened before I was here, hearing those stories pains my heart.

I’ve learned that the Title IX team at Knox cares deeply about the well-being of students, about continuously refining a process that is fair and as painless as possible given the inherently painful nature of experiencing and reporting an assault, and about developing and implementing prevention education programs that may one day render the sexual assault response process needless.

But I’ve also learned that some of you don’t know or believe that.

I hope to remedy that.

I will be holding open meetings at the following times so that we might collaborate to implement substantive and permanent reform:

Wednesday, April 20, 7-8 p.m., Alumni Room/Old Main

Wednesday, May 4, 7-8 p.m., Alumni Room/Old Main

Wednesday, May 18, 7-8 p.m., Alumni Room/Old Main

I am happy to extend those meetings into the summer and next term and as long as it takes to get it right.

I trust we can move forward together.

Anne Ehrlich

Vice President for Student Development

@KnoxVPAnne

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  @KnoxVPAnne Anne Ehrlich Knox College letter to the editor reform title ix

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