EDITORIAL: Policy should have changed long ago
U. may have faulty motives for statement of regret
Less than 8 hours following NJ Advance Media publishing an article exposing Rutgers’ lack of action on certain sexual assault cases, University President Robert L. Barchi sent out a statement condemning the University’s policies. An investigative article written by Susan K. Livio and Kelly Heyboer recounted the experiences of several different victims of sexual harassment and assault that have come forward recently. One of these victims is Kristy King, a former graduate student at Rutgers, who claimed that Professor Stephen Eric Bronner, “sat across from me in a chair, too close. As we talked, he ran his hand all the way up the inside of my thigh.” Although King did not file a complaint at the time of the incident, she was inspired by the #MeToo movement and decided to come forward with her complaint this past February. Her experience was quickly invalidated by the University’s two-year limit on sexual misconduct investigations. In other words, Rutgers refused to look into the case, much less even inquire of Bronner anything about the accusation, according to Bronner himself.
Rutgers has been ignoring cases similar to King’s for years under the premise that a sexual misconduct case more than two years old cannot be investigated. Other victims, such as Meredith Staples, have also had their cases neglected. Staples’s perpetrator went on to gain a tenured professor position, despite the complaints made against him. This wholly disregards the victims’ experiences. Many victims, such as King, do not come forward with their complaints of sexual harassment immediately or within two years for a multitude of reasons, including fear, shame, trauma and mental health. This two-year limit on investigations rushes the victims’ recovery process when the University’s priority should in fact be protecting its students and facing the abusers with the correct repercussions. No student or victim otherwise should have to sit in their abuser’s classroom.
Barchi stated, “... the policy still cites a two-year limit, consistent with state law. This language is inconsistent with both our practices and our values, and we must send a clear message of commitment to pursue any sexual harassment or misconduct for which evidence and witnesses remain,” according to the NJ101.5 website. While Barchi was quick to criticize the University’s two-year limit, the University’s executives have not been quick to address any of the recent sexual assault allegations prior to the NJ Advance Media article. What motivates University officials like Barchi to suddenly take action after months or even years of complaints? University officials seem to only be concerned with the reputation of the school, rather than the well-being of their students. Action should have been taken sooner.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) also made a statement that a two-year limit on investigations “doesn’t sound like it’s right.” He said, “In any era, but certainly in this era, I think you've got to cross all your 't's and dot all your 'i's. Whether you're a university, whether you're a church, or some other organization ... your responsibility is to take this stuff seriously and run everything to the ground.” Why then, has the state not taken action? As Barchi stated, the University’s two-year limit was “consistent with state law.” According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, "58 percent of women faculty and staff in academia (all disciplines, not limited to science, engineering and medicine) experienced sexual harassment." Rutgers officials, along with Murphy should have taken this topic seriously before the NJ Advance Media article exposed their actions. The University needs to focus more on prevention, rather than damage control.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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