Some students in the Psychology Department are dissatisfied with the university president’s statement in response to The Bulletin's stories this week about an undergraduate student who filed a sexual misconduct case against a tenured professor.
“I feel like our department really tried to sweep this under the rug and the psychology students are not happy with it,” said Hannah Turner, senior psychology major. “It could have been any of us.”
President Allison Garrett emailed the response to Emporia State’s students, faculty and staff yesterday. In the statement, Garrett defended the university's use of confidentiality agreements in misconduct investigations, and said the law had been followed.
The statement was in response to two stories and an editorial in Thursday's edition of The Bulletin, which told the story of an undergraduate international student—called "Jane" in the stories—who said she had been left feeling "hopeless" by the university's response to her complaint. She said a tenured professor of psychology, Brian Schrader, had attempted to kiss her after taking her to a storage room on campus. Jane said she was required by the university to sign an agreement that forbid her from talking to others about the case, or face discipline.
“Confidentiality requirements are in place to ensure that those who feel they have been wronged have a safe and secure channel for reporting complaints,” Garrett said in her letter yesterday. “If this confidentiality were to be betrayed by the university, the result would be a chilling effect on those who want to come forward and participate in these matters as complainants, respondents or witnesses.”
Some students did not agree with this sentiment, however.
"This is not accurate,” said Madison Denham, senior psychology major. “When you silence survivors, you kill their story. You make other survivors more afraid to come forward. This is not okay. I understand what they’re trying to go for, but it does more harm than good.”
Chevelle Balcacer, junior psychology major, said she was disgusted by the news.
“I actually was a student who did not receive the statement, so first of all, that made me upset, especially because I am a psych major, and I feel like out of everyone, we need reassured the most considering we are the ones who will be having direct contact with him every day,” Balcacer said.
Balcacer has experience working with sexual assault victims and is familiar with Title IX because of her work with THRIVE and her personal passion to help survivors.
“Second of all, I personally am familiar with Title IX, and I do understand why those protections are in place, however, they obviously were not executed properly if the student did not feel safe, and felt the need to come forward of her own volition, breaking confidentiality,” Balcacer said. “I work with survivors of sexual assault often, and it is something I take very seriously. Again, I do know why these protections are in place, but we have to ask ourselves, what is wrong with them if it doesn’t help the victim. From what I understand, they have an agreement that the student and the faculty member must avoid each other. What good does that do?”
Balcacer also said the size of the psychology department was an important factor in this story.
“The psych department is one of the smallest on campus, it is impossible not to pass each other,” Balcacer said. “He also is now the advisor for all the psych majors, (which means he will be having one on one meetings with every undergraduate female psych major) and that office is by the main entrance that students use. She will have to go out of her way, use alternative entrances, and have modified classes due to this.”
Balcacer expressed her unhappiness with Garrett’s statement.
“They were talking about confidentiality, but it’s pretty obvious what the decision was since he is still seeing students and teaching,” Balcacer said. “What does that say about our school? What about the next person who is victimized? Will they even come forward after seeing what happened (or didn’t happen) in this situation? Personally I am disgusted.”
Cole Lara, sophomore psychology major, was also unhappy with Garrett’s statement.
“I feel (that) while confidentiality requirements are very helpful to protect those involved,” Lara said. “At the same time I feel (that) in situations like this, I feel students should have been informed of the circumstances surrounding Dr. Schrader much sooner, that way they can decide for themselves if they feel comfortable to have him involved in their academic lives. The whole situation enrages me greatly because I fear for my friends and other students, that with how things were handled with him (Schrader), that something like this could happen again.”
According to Garrett’s letter the university was following the law when it came to non-disclosure agreements.
“To provide clarification regarding The Bulletin’s references to the Notice of Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation document, the university complied with the 2011 U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights guidance requiring confidentiality and non-retaliation as part of Title IX investigations,” Garrett said. “New guidance in September 2017 removed this feature from Title IX investigations. ESU modified its procedures accordingly.”
However when Jane asked Lisa Moritz, associate affirmative action officer and Title IX deputy coordinator, on Feb. 6 for a copy of her Non-Disclosure Agreement, Jane was not told that it was rescinded or no longer in effect.
According to Gwen Larson, assistant director of marketing and media relations, ESU no longer uses the Notice of Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation that Jane was asked to sign.
“It doesn’t matter what you call a document, the practical effect of this document is that the complainant has to agree to waive their right to talk about the issue in exchange for the university investigating their complaint,” said Max Kautsch, a Lawrence attorney who specializes in press issues. “So it doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s a contract that prohibits speech.”
Garrett did not respond to five requests from The Bulletin to discuss this matter, including some that were marked as “urgent.” As of Friday afternoon, Garrett still has not contacted The Bulletin.