Katherine Lenahan

Opinions Editor

The fact that we have to rely on the press to learn about what is happening in our own community is not only frustrating, but it is wrong. For better or for worse, we are a community that should be able to have a shred of transparency and the ethical backbone to actually communicate that the institution does not tolerate sexual misconduct.

Instead of any type of outreach by the administration, there is silence. The statement that was released was insufficient and did not condemn the abhorrent behavior that a faculty member enacted. The real issue is that we have been waiting in silence. Student-led organizations on campus are tasked with advocating for causes that they care about to an extent that is unfair. MSOs, RSOs, SGA, among other groups have to fend for themselves to a school that does not want to suffer the bad press or acknowledge it, and consequently students are given the message that sexual misconduct is a normal and expected component of life on the Hill.

Asking politely for individuals in power to acknowledge the existence of misconduct is one of the more uncomfortable and difficult aspects of working with administrators as a student on campus. Behind the polite smiles and “offering of information” that what we’re asking about is “under investigation,” there is a level of frustration and eventual rage that builds when students are disregarded that is difficult to convey.

We are told to “Ask More” as a Jesuit, liberal arts institution. However, when we “Ask More,” we are silenced with excuses, public gatherings about how we should follow the mission to be “men and women for and with others;” however, it’s clear that this mission statement means to be a passive ally.

Sexual misconduct is an epidemic that has always existed in institutions of higher education, but it is most felt when it is within your own community. Holy Cross has provided an environment for sexual violence to thrive and has not bolstered Title IX with sufficient resources for two attorneys to take on this issue. Our institution allows sexual predators to retain their power, whether it be within academia or within student leadership positions.

This is a testimony that has been crafted after much thought, as I have loved my academic and social life at the College. However, I acknowledge that for many of my peers, this has not been the case. My perception of the College that I once loved, has shifted to a place that does not condemn one of the most violent crimes, that of sexual assault. It has been incredibly painful to be here, to know of perpetrators walking among us, to know of administrators who do not want to change the status quo. I am disappointed and hurt that I feel it is necessary for me to spell out how distorted the environment is here surrounding sexual violence. Not only has there been silence, but there has also been a burden placed on those who are most likely to be affected by sexual violence.

The College hosts events on how to be a good bystander, how to protect yourself through self defense. But not once has the institution supported programming to mitigate rape culture.

I want the administration to know that students do not expect you as individuals to have all of the answers to these systemic and difficult issues. However, we do expect accountability, and we do expect to be heard and to receive responses. The phrase “this is under investigation” will not be a sufficient excuse for inaction. What does this actually mean?

Students are not asking for much. We are not expecting the most detailed accounts, but we do expect updates within a timely manner, without having to ask for them. We are not asking for you to reinvent the wheel with new programming and listening sessions. We want you to advocate for student health and safety. Your silence empowers abusers and sexual predators. We don’t expect perfection, but when you value bad press more than you value students’ voices, we are angered and saddened by the artificiality of your words and responses. We are “Asking More” of you because we know that this institution has a lot of room for growth. However, your silence is deafening and your only response is with a 175th Anniversary Campaign for donations. I have no desire to donate to an institution that continuously accepts sexual misconduct as a norm, and neither should our Holy Cross community.

Photo by Jake Bucci ’21

Categories: Opinions

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