May 15, 2019

PU Protests Continue Into Second Week Over Title IX Reform

By Donald Gilpin

Students demanding action in response to their concerns over Princeton University’s sexual misconduct policies have continued their protests into a second week on the main lawn in front of Nassau Hall.

Braving the elements throughout the rainy week since Tuesday afternoon May 7, Princeton Students for Title IX Reform (PIXR), ranging in number from a handful to about 200, continue to insist that the University “acknowledge that this is a crisis on our campus,” and “publicly address our concerns in a way that is oriented toward taking steps to resolve the issues we’re addressing,” said Junior K. Stiefel, one of the protest organizers. “The University has a long history of sending things to committees and collecting data, but not actually taking action.”

A PIXR press release states, “The protest occurring on Nassau lawn is an active demonstration of the pain and indignation caused by the way in which the administration currently addresses sexual and interpersonal violence. As community members continue to suffer, PIXR will continue to push for systemic change.”

Last Friday, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber approved a request for an external review of the Title IX system, the second of PIXR’s 11 demands, but PIXR has rejected the University’s proposal that University Provost Deborah Prentice oversee the external review, claiming that “she has been directly implicated in the mishandling of Title IX cases.”

Other PIXR demands include a call for “transparency and consistency in the Title IX processes”; “the establishment of an opt-in alternative restorative justice track for survivors who wish to avoid the traumatizing process of Title IX proceedings”; a group of independent, full-time, professional social workers to help survivors navigate the Title IX system; a fund set up to assist students with costs related to mental health services; departmentalization of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies; mandatory and comprehensive sexual assault and Title IX training for all University hires and student leaders; the hiring of an international interpersonal coordinator to work with students on

international programs; increased representation and accessibility within survivor-oriented spaces; and a commitment from the University to combat Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ proposed rollbacks of Title IX protections.

As “a show of good faith,” in response to the University’s objection, PIXR modified its last demand, removing its call for the termination of Regan Crotty as the Title IX coordinator.

Though refusing for the most part to respond to or discuss specific demands, the University has issued statements of support for PIXR’s overall goals.

“Over the past several days, Princeton University students have raised concerns around the University’s current sexual misconduct investigation and adjudication processes,” the University Office of Communications stated last week. “The University respects and benefits from student perspectives on how these important issues are handled. Input from the community is critical to our efforts to maintain a safe, supportive, and fair environment on campus that is free from sexual misconduct and all forms of discrimination.”

A May 10 University press release cited changes made in recent years to strengthen the University’s policies that prohibit sexual misconduct and its procedures for investigating and addressing cases, including enhancing training on sexual harassment and misconduct for students, faculty, and staff; implementing a new policy prohibiting all faculty from initiating or engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with graduate students (a similar ban between faculty and undergraduates has been in place for a number of years); adding staff dedicated solely to Title IX issues; expanding training for administrators who serve as Title IX advisers; and making numerous changes to the Sexual Misconduct website and “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” to clarify procedures and practices and make it easier to access information and resources.

Chaired by Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, a joint meeting of the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct and the University Student Life Committee met Monday afternoon, May 13, to begin discussing concerns raised by the PIXR activists. PIXR representatives participated for part of the meeting, explaining their concerns on a range of issues.

“These concerns will be reviewed in conjunction with the ongoing work of the committees to improve University policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct on campus,” the University Office of Communications announced. The committee also committed to sharing its next steps with the University community in the coming days.

“The administration has taken care not to respond explicitly to the majority of our demands,” said sophomore protest organizer Schuyler Kean, skeptical of the likelihood of meaningful change in the University’s actions. “Princeton University has had a long history of mismanagement of sexual misconduct.” 

Anna Macknick, also a PIXR sophomore organizer, added, “So many people on campus have had these experiences. It’s shocking to me that the University is prioritizing its reputation over the well-being of its students.”