Public Letter Concerning Gender Based Violence on Campus

May 23, 2017

FEMINIST STUDIES DEPARTMENT
MAILSTOP: HUMANITIES ACADEMIC SERVICES
May 23, 2017

PUBLIC LETTER CONCERNING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE ON CAMPUS

Dear UCSC Community,

Since March, there has been significant discussion of sexual violence and harassment at UCSC, ranging from media reports of a university legal settlement related to sexual assault to heated exchanges between faculty and students over the Title IX system which investigates claims of gender-based violence and discrimination. In the midst of these debates over the functioning of existing systems to address sexual harassment and assault, the faculty of the Feminist Studies Department writes to affirm the necessity of active community participation to create a campus environment free of gender-based violence and discrimination. The Title IX system is a core component of institutional efforts against sexual violence. At the same time, such institutional mechanisms are not alone sufficient in forging a safe and inclusive working environment for students, staff, faculty, and other community members. Part of the work that remains is to create localized forms of collective discourse about the violence, inequality, and conflict we witness within and beyond the institution, and to do so in ways that bridge the different structural positions occupied by faculty, staff, and students at the university. To that end, we commend undergraduate and graduate students who pose thoughtful questions about the strengths and limits of Title IX as well as broader legal systems that define its scope and practices.

Although due process protections are essential for individuals accused of disciplinary infractions, Title IX violations, or criminal acts, national student-led activism against campus sexual assault has revealed that overly legalistic administrative responses to incidents of genderbased violence can themselves create an atmosphere of impunity for perpetrators. In response, the Department of Education guidance on campus sexual harassment and assault emphasized in 2011 that the University must act swiftly to remedy an environment of harassment: ‘Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate… harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.’ Our colleagues in Latin American and Latinx Studies wrote a letter to the UCSC administration on March 8 criticizing the culture of strict silence surrounding sexual violence and harassment on campus, noting that the lack of transparency compromises our ability to effectively promote a violence-free culture within our classrooms, office spaces, and departmental units. These dynamics can lead to a situation in which information about allegations of harassment and violence proliferates as rumor and compromises the ability of students to take advantage of university resources aimed at redressing violence and fear.

We know that sexual assault and harassment are not isolated occurrences, but are effects of larger structural forces that continuously generate alienation, vulnerability, discrimination, and violence in our society. With that in mind, we open our doors to students who wish to discuss the forms of violence they witness and encounter in our community. We hope to join in dialogue with students and other members of our community toward the shared end of struggling against forms of discrimination and violence based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexuality, disability, class, religion, and nationality.

The fact that there are limits to what the Title IX system can accomplish does not mean that those who experience sexual harassment or assault can or should dispense with it or other important campus resources. The CARE office, for example, offers confidential support and advocacy for students who have experienced sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking. It also helps students file Title IX claims. We encourage any student who has experienced assault or harassment to seek out assistance through these systems. Faculty are currently required to report accounts of Title IX violations to the university. We want to tell anyone who feels concerned that a Title IX report might be harmful or not result in action that we are committed to supporting you through this process. We can initiate a report with partial information, even if we don’t know your name.

We recognize that students and other community members often legitimately feel vulnerable when faced with the choice of reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other forms of gender-based violence or discrimination. This is one of the reasons that most instances of sexual assault and harassment go unreported. Thus to truly improve the safety and inclusion on campus requires that we work both within and beyond these structures. We welcome ideas that can help us create an environment free of gender-based violence and discrimination. We cannot respond effectively to existing forms of discrimination and violence without clear communication about the context. We hope to foster a culture of open discussion of the forms of violence and inequality we witness, and to hold accountable individuals who violate standards of ethical conduct in our midst.

In solidarity,

The faculty in Feminist Studies

See Also