Jepson professors Dr. Thad Williamson and Dr. Crystal Hoyt announced at a faculty forum on Sept. 13 that they are drafting a proposal urging the Faculty Senate to create a commission to holistically assess sexual assault prevention and response on campus in the wake of multiple ongoing controversies at University of Richmond.
“I was in a class and I have students saying that they’ve been warned that this isn’t a safe place for women,” Williamson told The Collegian. “That’s not good. It undermines everything we are trying to accomplish at this university. It is unacceptable.”
Earlier this month, Richmond student CC Carreras harshly criticized how administrators handled her sexual assault allegations through the university Title IX process on the Huffington Post contributor network. An email by university administrators asserting “inaccuracies” in Carreras’ post exacerbated the tensions on campus, and follow-up posts by Carreras and Whitney Ralston have roiled Richmond’s campus.
Professors voiced concerns at the faculty forum, which was attended by President Ronald Crutcher, ranging from mandatory faculty Title IX training, scrutiny over the official response to Carreras’ post and the role of Greek life on campus, among other topics. Many professors are concerned that rape culture is affecting the learning environment and student safety at Richmond.
Dr. Jessie Fillerup, assistant professor of musicology, spent more than 30 minutes discussing the campus environment with students in class after Carreras’ initial post.
“We can’t have a constructive conversation about (opera) until we deal with what is right in front of us, and what’s in front of us is disturbing for many students and for me,” Fillerup said.
Many students expressed in Fillerup’s class that they felt unsafe.
“It was heartbreaking for me to hear that,” Fillerup said. “To know that we’re failing them... We’re failing them. All of us here, not just the administration but the faculty for not being better informed about processes that are perhaps faulty.”
Multiple professors have written strongly worded blogs, including Dr. Kristin Bezio and Dr. Eric Grollman, condemning rape culture at Richmond and across the country. Grollman is one of the few professors who have publicly discussed the specifics of Carreras’ allegations, and they harshly criticized university administrators for publicly doubting Carreras instead of apologizing.
“I also want to apologize to CC — as a faculty member, fellow spider, and concerned human being — for such an ugly end to her time at UR, topped only by being further failed by the university,” Grollman wrote.
Dr. Joanne Ciulla, a founding member of the Jepson School of Leadership who specializes in leadership ethics, said that she did not know the facts of Carreras’ case but surmised that “the individuals who handled it probably made some poor judgments.”
“So even before the university reflects on how to prevent and handle future cases of sexual assault, I think that the leadership of the university and those who may have erred in this case owe the student an apology,” Ciulla said. “One of the distinctive features of being a leader is that leaders are responsible for what happens under their watch, even when they are not directly involved.”
Campus tensions heightened after a misogynistic email sent by a member of Kappa Alpha, or KA, was revealed last week. The fraternity was subsequently suspended and the incident has received national media attention.
The 2008 Kappa Sigma email included the passage, "bring your favorite freshman skeezas so they can get a (expletive) thrown in em by whoever. hopefully if you brought em u can finish the deal.”
Williamson hopes his fourth-grade daughter will attend University of Richmond, but is concerned about the lack of cultural change on campus during his tenure.
“This incident in 2008 was eight years ago, and I’m thinking, well, eight years from now (my daughter) will be in her senior year applying to schools," Williamson said. "So I want to see more progress in the next eight years than there has been in the last eight years."
Contact reporter Danny Heifetz at firstname.lastname@example.org