On Monday, January 29th, I attended the Title IX discussion panel at Centennial Hall. I was nervous going there as I personally went through the reporting process and I didn’t want to be reminded of the emotional distress it caused me. Yet I still came as I felt passionate about the topic and sincerely believed it could push Augustana to reform its policies. Based on the campus-wide emails sent out, it seemed that Augustana would finally listen to us and be open to our ideas.
That wasn’t what happened at all. We didn’t get a discussion. We didn’t get answers to our questions pertaining to the school’s plans for reformation. Instead, the moderator would talk about the current policies or respond with “conversation is the first step”. Yes, a conversation is needed and this one is long overdue. However, it’s counterproductive if you’re not open to feedback and can’t communicate your ideas back to us. Even with the outrage in response to recent events, the panel didn’t seem prepared to hear our concerns. Sure sexual assault isn’t always easy to talk about, but you can’t promise us change if you won’t listen to what we have to say.
That day, I sat in a room amongst other survivors, some of which had the courage to share their stories in that tense moment. So many brave people spoke out to reveal the flaws in the system. Our experiences may be different but we had a thing in common: hope that Augustana would finally change how Title IX approached its cases. To hear other people speak of how the Title IX team failed them is upsetting. I remember when I first reported to Title IX coordinators about my incident and feeling confident about my decision in pursuing an investigation. I remember when I dropped my case last year after reading my investigation report during winter break and seeing how Title IX tried blaming me for another person’s action inflicted on me. I remember crying in my mother’s arms as I told her I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to return to Augustana. I couldn’t imagine going back to school and pretending everything was going be okay. I still carry this anguish on my shoulders to this day. It hurts waking up every day knowing that you will never get the resolution you deserve.
We need a system that will hold offenders accountable while protecting survivors. When several people share their experiences on the ways which the Title IX team failed to uphold those values and go as far as advising others not to report to them, that is a legitimate issue. It’s not just about preventing sexual assault on campus; it’s also about enforcing sanctions on perpetrators of assault to protect students from further danger. I shouldn’t have to hear people tell me that they’re not comfortable reaching out to Title IX.
While the administration has been sending out updates regarding the topic since the panel, I don’t want to lose all hope yet. I don’t expect any immediate changes and I’m unsure of what is to come, but we as a student body have taken a large step forward. We shall keep moving until we receive the resolution we want.