Letter to the Editor: “We do not accept the status quo,” alums assert

Dear President Hill, Dean Roellke, Vice President Baer, and the Administration and Staff of Vassar College,

We are writing as a group of concerned alumnae/i to whom you made certain promises: Promises not unlike the ones you made Dec. 2, 2014 during the forum on the Margolis Healy report, stating “We are committed to making [Vassar] a welcoming place…it’s clearly not working.” We share students’ concerns that “we like to talk about things a lot, but we don’t like to make the decisions.” We are writing to hold you to your promises. We are writing to say, loudly and clearly, that those promises do not disappear when their recipients leave campus. In fact, your duty to honor and fulfill these promises is all the more important as generations of students committed to bettering their alma mater graduate, move on, and entrust you to finish what they started. We will not forget, we will not allow Vassar to forget, and we expect the administration to honor its promises.

We’re writing to ask that you make good on all of your promises. To make good on the promises made Dec. 2 and in the past to acknowledge and stop the acts of aggression perpetrated against the Vassar community by racial profiling. And to make good in particular on promises made to the signatories to this letter. While at Vassar, every signatory of this letter dedicated her/his time to working with administrators, faculty, peers, and community members to improve the College’s response to sexual and interpersonal violence on campus. We and many others spent countless hours researching, discussing, and revising the College’s policies and procedures. We did this in exchange for a solemn promise from the administration to (1) foster a safe educational environment, and (2) refuse to accept acts of aggression perpetrated against any member of the community based on their race, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation or religion.

We held up our end of the bargain. But recent events on campus demonstrate that the administration has not done the same. A student recently wrote an open letter detailing her devastating experience both as a survivor of sexual assault and as a student seeking a supportive and fair adjudication process. Vassar students and alumnae/i have publicly come forward about their horrific experiences of sexual violence on campus; others have publicly shared how the College’s response to these issues has failed them. Students, alumnae/i, faculty, and other community members have shown that they want to see the College back its words up with real, concrete change.

Now is the time for Vassar to be at the forefront of responding to a national issue. With its need-blind financial aid policy, Vassar has demonstrated that it can be a leader and a model for other colleges and universities around the country. President Hill has shown a willingness to engage in the nationwide dialogue on campus sexual assault, but discussion is not enough; we expect leadership, and we need it now more than ever.

As such, we ask that Vassar College:

  1. Honor its repeated promises made to generations of students and not acted upon.
  2. Publicly reconfirm its commitment to funding and supporting the SAVP program, ALANA center, and resources dedicated to improving safety on campus and the support of students. We will restrict our donations to Vassar to supporting these issues, and encourage other alums to do the same, until we are confident that funding for these programs is adequate.
  3. Commit to engaging alums in the dialogue regarding campus resources and socio-political climate. Vassar is still our community. We grew up there. We are eager to maintain whatever happy memories we have there. Give us that opportunity to be part of the solution.
  4. Act transparently. Further dialogue or simple action is not enough; actions must be clear, decisive, public, and driven by input from the community members they affect.

We do not accept that Vassar has failed to honor the promises made to us and to the generations of students before and after us. We do not accept that Vassar has failed to uphold the policies and procedures as explicitly detailed in the College Regulations. We do not accept that Vassar has failed to provide the survivor-centered approach it promises. We do not accept processes that re-traumatize and discourage students from coming forward, or provide no means at all for students to do so. And, we do not accept policies and procedures that continue to make the College unsafe. We do not accept the status quo. We did not when we were there, and we do not now as alums. We demand more.

Sincerely,

Abby Alexanian ‘11
CARES Intern, 2010-2011

Charlie Dobb ‘12
VSA VP for Student Life 2011-2012
CARES Member

Dan Flynn ‘13
Olivia Josselyn Hall President 2010-2011
Director, Vassar College Entertainment 2012-2013

Amanda Giglio ‘11
SAVP Intern 2009-2010
Main House Student Fellow 2008-2009

Laura Riker ‘11
VSA VP for Academics 2010-2011
CARES Member

Syed Samin Shehab ‘11
VSA VP for Student Life 2010-2011
SAVP Intern 2010-2011

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