Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Yesterday morning, Mia Ferguson ‘15 stood in front of Independence Hall and announced that she was filing a second complaint against Swarthmore, this time for Title IX violations.
In a press conference attended by Swarthmore students, alumni, and other supporters, Ferguson detailed the Clery Act and Title IX complaints, voiced her disappointment with the school administrative response thus far, and detailed her hopes for moving forward.
According to Title IX, educational institutions are obligated to promptly respond and investigate any claims or incidents of sexual harassment or assault, as well as make publicly known procedures that students looking to file complaints of sexual discrimination can follow. Sexual discrimination, in this case, includes sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
After numerous student and alumni accounts that revealed the administration’s lack of openness and willingness to cooperate, Ferguson felt that the only measure drastic enough to elicit an effective response from the school was to file this second complaint.
“Department of Education investigations are now the best way and only way for Swarthmore College to understand its pervasive institutional problems, find ways to resolve them, and move forward as a college renowned not only for its leadership and excellence in education but also for student safety,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson, who described the frustrating obstacles she encountered after trying to report her sexual assault, is looking to Swarthmore to adopt a proactive stance in leading the change in ways universities handle issues of sexual violence, harassment, and assault.
Students and alumni have already begun to come together as the driving force for change within this school. Earlier this week, students organized Swarthmore Assault Prevention and Survivor Advocacy. Alumni are circulating an online petition that expresses concern over the school’s mishandling of sexual assault on campus. On a national level, the IX Network allows students across the country coping with the aftermaths of sexual assault to reach out and find each other.
In the end, Ferguson recognizes the milestones that have already been reached, and the positive changes that have already occurred within universities in the past several decades. However, she hopes that even greater steps can be taken, with Swarthmore leading the way towards an even more open and supportive environment for sexual assault victims and survivors on college campuses to speak out and be heard.
Within the coming weeks, Swarthmore will undergo external review, as the Department of Education will investigate both of Ferguson’s complaints. If the DOE determines them to be legitimate, Swarthmore could face a series of fines.
Photo by Jenni Lu/The Daily Gazette