Tufts “acknowledges” it has breached agreement, “committed” to take promised actions

5/1/2014 – Medford/Somerville, MA, 02155 – Police talk outside Ballou Hall on May 1st, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily)

Echoes of students chanting “re-sign or resign, we need our Title IX” vibrated inside Ballou Hall as more than 100 students formed a human-circle around the administrative building, protesting the university “revoking” the agreement it signed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

In the university’s largest rally since the late 1980s, students protested outside Ballou for more than three hours this afternoon while 12 of their peers — protest organizers and leaders — met with Tufts administrators inside to discuss the school’s Title IX compliance.

After hours of discussions, the two parties released a joint statement at 6 p.m. in which the university “acknowledged” the OCR stance — that Tufts has breached the agreement it signed with OCR — and explained some of the revisions administrators will make to the campus’ sexual assault policy in the future.  

“The university regrets that recent events had the unintended consequence of causing some members of our community to feel unsupported,” the statement reads. “The conversation did not begin today and must not end today.”

The Department of Education earlier this week announced that Tufts’ current sexual assault policies violate Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination on campus. The university had “revoked” its signature on a voluntary agreement with OCR on April 26 after it was notified of its noncompliance. Students have since rallied together to protest both the university’s decision to “revoke” its signature and the school’s alleged Title IX violations.

Although students had planned to “sit-in” the administrative building, only the 12 students who organized the rally were allowed inside to discuss their demands with administrators.

Members of the media were not allowed inside the meeting, but a source in attendance told the Daily that Monaco will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with OCR about Tufts’ Title IX compliance. In an interview with the Daily on April 29, Monaco said he is willing to sign a new agreement — even one that acknowledges Tufts has violated Title IX — as long as the OCR explains how the university broke the law and “is very clear about what we have to do.”

Students have long criticized the length of time it takes Tufts’ administration to resolve sexual assault reports. While the OCR recommends universities conclude all sexual assault reports in 60 days, Tufts has taken between 120 and 240 days to complete this process in some cases, junior John Kelly said in an interview with the Daily earlier this week.

According to Thursday’s joint statement, if the university takes longer than 60 calendar days to resolve an outstanding case, the Office of Equal Opportunity will explain to the individuals involved why the adjudication process has been extended. In the statement, which freshman Olivia Carle and Provost David Harris read outside Ballou Hall, the two also explained interim accommodations, like residential and academic adjustments, available to victims of sexual misconduct — whether or not they file a report.

The university also said it will create a “resource and response coordinator,” a confidential position who will work with the Sexual Assault/Misconduct Coordinator, to be hired in the fall, according to the statement.

Although the 12 student organizers agreed to the terms of the statement, there were some elements of the discussions that remain unresolved. Junior Ruby Vail, Tufts VOX president, was pleased about the number of students who participated in the protest, but said she is hesitant to call the results a success.

“I think there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made,” Vail said.  

According to the same source inside the meeting, administrators said they were “not ready to expel rapists” — a policy student activists have repeatedly called for, most recently at the rally today that preceded their march to Ballou.

“Tufts somehow thinks that its rapists, the ones that walk within this fence, are better than the ones outside it,” Carle said at the rally on the Tisch Library Roof. “I will fight for the rights of survivors. You’ll never stop me Tufts.”

The Department of Education today released a list of 55 universities who are under investigation for Title IX compliance issues.