Letter to the Editor: Alumni stand with UMF assault survivors

We stand united as alumni of The College of New Jersey and speak from our experiences as former community members and leaders to express our unwavering support of sexual assault survivors and University of Maine at Farmington students Chloe Woodward and Sierra. As former students of the institution at which President Kathryn Foster presently serves, we were deeply disappointed to learn that, while at UMF, President Foster overturned a disciplinary sanction that would have created a learning and living environment in which survivors of sexual violence could find safety and justice.

We represent former Residential Education members, campus ambassadors, student workers, Student Government members, student organizational leaders, academic awardees, organizers of multiple social justice initiatives and more. We have seen the impact that sexual assault has on individuals in our own lives and believe that it’s important to acknowledge the significance of overturning a decision that had the potential to create an environment in which a survivor could begin to heal. For those of us who are survivors of sexual violence, we know what society plants into our subconscious and what we must grapple with as we heal –– the overturning of the reality of being raped into something lesser, something to be quieted, forgotten and rejected for fear of the risk of being told that we are false, drink too much, dress too revealing or that the perpetrator’s reputation is too precious. President Foster’s overturning of the sanction and additional recommendation for Chloe to seek “alcohol counseling” perpetuates a victim-blaming culture that prevents victims of sexual assault from reporting in the first place.

Many institutions, including the College, have spent the last several years working to improve institutional responses to sexual assault. However, efforts to create campus communities in which survivors are supported and provided justice are harmed when community members –– whether students, faculty, or staff –– demonstrate utter disregard for the rights and needs of survivors. Some of us were involved in anti-violence efforts at our alma mater, and that work fuels our determination that President Foster’s actions stand in opposition of the need for TCNJ’s students to be served by leaders that prioritize their safety and wellbeing.

Further, efforts to seek justice for survivors of sexual violence do not exist in a vacuum; we recognize the work of students at the College who we see fighting for racial justice. President Foster recently listened to feedback from the College community concerning racism on the College’s campus. She listened and set out provisions for creating a more inclusive community. We, as alumni, hope President Foster keeps listening to the campus community and look to her to take action to rebuild the trust of students facing and healing from power-based violence at the College.

We, as alumni, are listening. To Chloe Woodward and Sierra: We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you. We hurt for you. We know you deserved better. We thank you for your bravery and your pursuit of justice and truth.

Co-signed,

E. Rosie Driscoll, ‘18
Meagan Loo ‘15
Thelma Teresa Carrera ‘18
Yadira Santos ‘18
Yuleisy Ortez ‘18
Kathryn Bednarsky ’18
Bailey Falco ‘18
Tabiya Ahmed ‘16
Derek Carper ‘17
Erin Shannon ‘16
Kayla Termyna ‘17
Jessica Van Lorre ‘07
Christopher Testa ‘17
Mary-Elizabeth Thompson ‘17
Alex Sánchez ‘16
Gabe Salazar ‘18
Vanessa Fiore ‘18
Alexander Moskal ’16
Laura Brennan ‘18
Jennifer Loughran ‘18
Becky Celestina ‘16
Taylor Scott ‘18
Bridget Quinn ‘17
Alli Londres ‘18
Jack Marr ‘16
Katie Yorke, ’16
Emma Young ‘18
Reid Maglione ‘17
Michael O’Connor ‘18
Katie Yorke ‘16
Jenn Resnick ‘16
Alyssa Hess ‘16
Kyle Greco ‘14
Emily Mullin ‘17
Chloe Yelle ‘18
Emily Bent ‘03
Cara Bronander, ‘16
Caroline Curtinez ‘18
Maria Guerra ‘18
Lauren Langbein ‘14
Elysia Jones ‘18
Emma Van Der Heide ‘18
Ashley Van Riper ‘17
Jennifer Hill ‘10
Sondra Nieradka ‘18
Amanda Parks ‘14
Nikhil Porecha ‘16
Tamara Fuentes ‘17
Emily Fuentes ‘18
Andrew Fenwick ‘18
Aditi Mahapatra ’17
Shaziya Ahmed ‘18

 

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