Complaints demand transparency

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 10, 2013

At issue: Students file complaint against Emerson administration in response to violating federal anti-discrimination law
Our take: Emerson must show complete transparency throughout investigation

Emerson has long been lauded for being progressive in matters of sexual health—from workshops to lectures, our campus is never lacking in sex ed, and many campus organizations encourage awareness of sexual assault. But in the past 10 months, over a dozen students have reported cases of forcible sexual assault, according to the Emerson College Police Department, compared to only five between 2010 and 2012. And just last week, a group of students filed a complaint alleging Emerson’s administration failed to follow requirements spelled out by Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law, when responding to sexual assaults.

In instances like these, the best policy is transparency—as much as possible without violating the privacy of the victims. Student groups, like Emerson Stopping Sexual Assault and Emerson Confessional, have shown a willingness to provide open forums for students to discuss sexual assaults. That same candor should be matched by the Emerson administration throughout the upcoming investigations.

In the coming weeks and months, there will be more news stories to follow like the Huffington Post’s. Internal reviews will be conducted, policies revisited, and new information will be uncovered. It would be in Emerson’s own best interest to be as prompt and transparent as possible in divulging any information it discovers—and in responding to allegations in media accounts—to the Emerson community.

College students have plenty to worry about, but their safety and well-being should be a given. Under Emerson’s watch, students reported they felt unsafe and uncomfortable in the wake of alleged instances of sexual assaults. While the incidents themselves are still under investigation, their emotions are certain, and the administration should be held accountable for perpetuating an environment that led these students to distress.

As Pelton mentioned in his email to the Emerson community, sexual assault is an issue present on campuses across the country. Sexual assaults, and colleges’ responses to them, are an institutional problem larger than any one university, and students and administrators nationwide are beginning to take action. If Emerson wants to be a part of the solution, being transparent is a crucial first step in rectifying the current allegations—and putting students who felt belittled at ease.