RA said she was forced to resign

by Evan Sporer / Beacon Staff • October 10, 2013

A resident assistant was fired from her position after attempting to assist one of her residents who had been sexually assaulted, according to a press release from End Rape on Campus obtained by the Beacon. In a later statement to the Beacon, the RA said she was forced to resign and not fired.

Dylan Manderlink, currently a senior, was an RA on the eighth floor of the Little Building last fall. During that time, her resident, then-freshman Sarah Tedesco, reported to the college that she had been sexually assaulted in an off-campus incident, according to Tedesco. 

Tedesco, a journalism major and a former Beacon staff member, and other Emerson students have been working with End Rape On Campus, an organization that provides free support to campus activists looking to file Title IX or Clery Act Complaints, according to its website. Title IX and the Clery Act are federal laws that prohibit sexual discrimination at educational institutions and require reporting of crimes on and near campus, respectively.

“The school has consistently been treating its survivors unfairly, and it wasn’t until I adamantly and passionately supported a survivor that I was put on probation and then fired for other outstanding reasons,” Manderlink wrote in a statement to the Beacon.

According End Rape on Campus’ release, Manderlink lost her position as an RA after she began to support Tedesco. 

“I think their timing of putting me on probation and then firing me was questionable, and should definitely be examined and challenged,” wrote Manderlink in her statement. “It seemed a little too strategic and it definitely made me feel like a failure.”

An anonymous student source confirmed to the Beacon that Manderlink was fired toward the end of the fall 2012 semester, around the same time Tedesco said she reported her assault to the college.

President M. Lee Pelton said he was aware of the press release and its claims, but declined to comment on any incident involving a specific student.

“That’s obviously a serious matter,” said Pelton in a phone interview with the Beacon. “We will follow up.”

When asked about the circumstances surrounding Manderlink’s dismissal, David Haden, associate dean and director of housing and residence life, declined to comment.

Emerson’s RA contract, obtained by the Beacon, describes what would lead to the dismissal of an RA.

“I understand that I may be subject to disciplinary action and/or my contract may be terminated at any time by the Associate Dean for any breach of the expectations stated above,” reads the contract, which includes 26 guidelines for RAs to follow, such as spending quality time on their floor with their residents, and acting as a referral agent to residents.

However, Title IX prohibits retaliation — by the college and other individuals — against students with claims of sexual assault.

Pelton said Emerson strives to train RAs to best help the students they oversee, including incidents involving sexual assault. 

“We have prevention and education and training programs, and we have advocacy and support programs,” said Pelton. “Sexual awareness programs are a part of residential advising training that’s part of orientation.”

Ronald Ludman, dean of students, outlined the orientation activities RAs went through in August during their training sessions.

“Prior to the start of the fall semester, the residence life staff, including all the residence assistants, participated in a comprehensive training program that included enhanced modules on sexual assault awareness and response,” Ludman wrote in a statement to the Beacon through Andrew Tiedemann, vice president of communications and marketing. 

Ludman said the training sessions were facilitated by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the Counseling Center.

Although the college already has sexual assault response measures in place, Pelton said there might be room for improvement.

“The question is around the programs’ efficacy,” said Pelton. “What we want to find out is if they’re effective, and if not, how can we improve them.”

Manderlink said she hopes to create a better environment for future RAs who might encounter similar situations. She clarified that this reflected her personal experience as an RA and not the entire program. 

“I want to also make sure that future student employees of the school are given sufficient support, advice, and consistent help when they are responsible for caring for a victim of sexual assault and aren’t neglected by their superiors,” wrote Manderlink in a separate statement to the Beacon. “Although I lost my job, I hope that no future Resident Assistant or student employee feels unsure, unsupported, and unconfident in their position because of their superior’s negligence.”

 

News Editor Jackie Tempera and Deputy News Editor Laura Gomez contributed to this report.