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Students speak out against alleged sexual assault

Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo holds a sign that reads "When P-Safe doesn't keep our community safe, we keep us safe. #BLACKTRANSLIVESMATTER."

On March 1, Integrity for Guilford organized another speak out in front of Founders Hall.

This time, it was after a black trans student was allegedly sexually assaulted on campus.

“On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, a sexual assault was reported on campus in the area of the Hendricks (Hall) parking lot behind King (Hall),” wrote Director of Public Safety William Anderson in a campus-wide email. “The subject then fled on foot in the direction of the library. Public Safety checked the immediate area as well as the entire campus with negative results.”

However, a delay in action by Public Safety caused students to feel unsafe and unprotected. Additionally, P-Safe misgendered the survivor in its report.

“P-Safe, the people who are supposed to keep us safe, did not know the protocol or did not follow the protocol, misgendered this person multiple times and continued to do it, which is violent as f— and is unacceptable,” said sophomore Terry Daniels. “It’s not OK. You are here to protect us, and this person was not protected.”

Daniels and several other students spoke out against the way P-Safe handled the incident. Junior Imani Ames reminded the crowd of protocol for P-Safe when a student reports sexual assault.

“Number one: The reporting student will be encouraged to report to college officials and will be treated with respect by college officials,” said Ames. “The victim was reportedly dismissed. They were laughed at. They were misgendered repeatedly by Public Safety officials.

“The second point is: The student will be assisted in contacting the Guilford College counseling center or victim advocacy. Gaither (Terrell) had not been contacted last night. … The third bullet: The student will be informed of their options to notify proper law enforcement authorities through local police. Now this did happen, but it happened hours after the assault.”

Other students implored white and cis allies to understand their privilege.

“We all have a part in what’s happening,” said senior Amaris Prince. “If you don’t understand your privilege, at least try. Be honest with yourself. Raise your hand even if you don’t want to raise your hand.

“Someone can help you. But if you can’t understand your privilege, you can’t help this movement at all.”

Senior Jocelyn Foshay brought up how she feels she has to do more in her position as a resident adviser than many P-Safe officers do in regards to sexual assault.

“I’m an RA, so I’m a mandatory reporter,” said Foshay. “If a student discloses an act of sexual assault to me, I have no choice but to report it. So why does Public Safety get the choice of when and how they report it?”

Students then turned to administrators like Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Todd Clark and President Jane Fernandes to answer questions.

“What are the steps that you take?” asked CCE student Tiyai Culver-Curry. “Where is the accountability?”

Fernandes addressed the crowd, telling them the information that she had.

“Last night, a third party report was called into P-Safe regarding a sexual assault that occurred at, from my understanding, about 10 p.m. on the grass between King and Hendricks, but there were no details and no victim. It was about 11 p.m. when more information came forward.

“When they had enough evidence to determine that a sexual assault took place, I guess it was about three hours later, P-Safe did issue a campus-wide alert. If no campus-wide alert had happened, that would be one level of concern.”

The group then demanded Anderson, who had been standing in Founders Hall, speak about what had happened.

“There were mistakes made by Public Safety,” said Anderson. “We have acknowledged that. We’ve explained that to the president. We’ve apologized for any miscommunication that took place. But our number one responsibility is to the students. Did we make mistakes? Yes. …  Was it intentional? Absolutely not.

“I made a decision based on the information that I had. Was that decision correct? No, it was not. Will we fix it? Absolutely.”

Several people in the crowd shouted, “It’s too late” as Anderson continued to speak. “We will fix it by making sure we improve our level of communication within the department.”

Students spoke up again after Anderson stepped back inside Founders Hall. Senior Elena Robles reminded the group that, a year ago, there had been similar problems with the judicial system and students of color feeling unsafe.

“This is just a repetition of the same pattern of behavior, just within a different department,” said Robles. “So, I guess part of the conversation that needs to continue is cultural and institutional around how we treat our people of color, our queer people of color, our trans people of color.”

When students demanded Fernandes fire several P-Safe officers, Fernandes said she could not do that because we need someone devoted to safety on campus.

“I think what the students are saying is that having some of these particular Public Safety officers on campus makes them feel actually less safe,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Lisa McLeod.

Integrity and other members of the campus community will continue to watch P-Safe and the administration as this process continues. Integrity meets in the Multicultural Education Department in King on Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

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