Students and faculty gathered on Wednesday evening to discuss Title IX-related concerns and suggestions with new Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich.
Ehrlich, who advertised the forum along with two more upcoming discussions in her letter to the editor last week, said she organized the event to work towards responding to student concerns. She explained that recent discourse pieces as well as individual conversations with students had alerted her to the fact that many students do not feel heard on issues related to Title IX policy and procedure.
“I’m a person of action — or I strive to be — and so having a real conversation seemed like an important first step,” Ehrlich said.
The discussion in Old Main covered a range of issues, starting with concerns over a current professor who has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Several of the 15 people in attendance voiced frustrations regarding the professor’s continued tenure at Knox and with the school’s current retaliation policy. They said the policy is confusing and prevents faculty from informing students about the allegations in question.
The group also described difficulties that students have faced with a specific member of the administration when coming forward about sexual assaults and shared frustrations over the college’s current mandatory reporting policy.
Ehrlich promised to look into all issues raised at the forum and suggested that students bring major concerns directly to leaders of the college, including President Teresa Amott and the Board of Trustees.
In response to concerns over Title IX and consent education during orientation week, she also advised students to reach out to Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Shawn Wilson. Wilson, who joined Knox’s administration earlier this year, now runs orientation.
Erica Witzig ‘16, who graduated from Knox last term, came back to campus to attend the event. Witzig was deeply invested in Title IX-related activism during her time at Knox and said the issues discussed at tonight’s forum remain important to her.
She noted that this event marked the first time the administration had met with students in an open forum setting to discuss Title IX in over a year.
After the forum, Witzig felt “optimistic and positive” about the direction the conversation had taken.
“Anne was not afraid to be blunt. She was not afraid to be like, yes, this is a problem and we’re going to fix it,” Witzig said. “That made me feel really good and very heard.”
“I would personally love students to know that Anne is now available as a resource on campus because I feel that students, including myself, have not thought that there were really any administrators who would take us seriously, who would validate our concerns,” Witzig added.
Ehrlich also felt the forum had been productive and said it provided her with a better understanding of issues and student concerns.
“I know it’s a risk for students to come here and open up and be so direct and trust me. So I think it was a first step, but there’s a lot more steps that have to come,” Ehrlich said. “We have to build that trust together to move forward and I hope that we started to lay the foundation for that. And I think it’s on me to follow up, to put my money where my mouth is, in order to build that trust. But again, I can’t do it alone.”