Content warning: This article discusses sexual misconduct.
Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate decisively voted down a resolution from members of Students Advocating for Students (SAS) pushing for changes to Tufts’ handling of Title IX policies during its meeting last night in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room.
After an update from TCU Judiciary, TCU Senate Parliamentarian Adam Rapfogel took the floor for SAS’s resolution, which was brought forth by SAS President Jake Goldberg and Treasurer Edmund Tamas Takata, both sophomores.
Yesterday’s proposal was the second resolution that Goldberg has brought to TCU Senate. The first resolution, which called for changes and clarifications to Tufts’ Sexual Misconduct Policy, was voted down by Senate at a meeting on Nov. 20.
This resolution’s main objective, which was listed in the document and described by Goldberg, is to encourage the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) to reform Title IX procedures. In particular, Goldberg suggested that the principal investigator should not have as much power, that the parties involved in the investigation should be neither former perpetrators nor survivors of sexual misconduct and that investigations should be conducted more quickly.
Additionally, the resolution called for OEO’s training materials to be presented to an external legal team to determine how well they comply with Tufts’ Title IX requirements.
Goldberg and Takata took a few minutes to discuss the resolution, after which the body was able to ask questions about it. There was roughly a 25-minute question-and-answer period, during which several senators and a few audience members voiced doubts and confusion.
Many of the questions centered on what exactly Goldberg was trying to reform and what the drive was to create this resolution specifically at this time.
In response, Goldberg said that the resolution is meant to push Title IX procedures to be more impartial and more prompt. He argued that results of investigations should be released within a shorter time frame, and that individuals who have had direct experience with sexual misconduct should not be allowed to participate in investigations or adjudications. Goldberg alleged that those personal experiences could render them biased.
Goldberg also repeatedly said that SAS has heard more people come forward saying investigations were taking too long and that, when the administration was asked for a reason why, there was no clear answer. However, Goldberg could not reveal whether these individuals were perpetrators or survivors.
Senators also asked if SAS took any other avenues before writing this resolution, if any other institutions had similar Title IX procedures, what the vetting process would look like and what sort of legal team would review OEO’s training content.
Goldberg said that he had tried to reach out to some pertinent student groups and was in contact with some of the relevant administrators. In terms of vetting, he said that some of the questions asked would revolve around whether the individual had any personal experience in sexual misconduct. This would prevent not only perpetrators, but also survivors, from being involved in investigative decisions.
In response to the question about legal review, Goldberg said that there is a large list of groups that could inspect the materials. He specifically referenced Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as an example of a potential group.
In response to one of the final questions, Goldberg said that he has not talked to any survivors on the Tufts campus about the resolution.
There was then a motion to move the resolution, which was objected to, after which the body moved into a relatively short debate.
Some senators raised concerns that no survivors at Tufts were consulted in the writing of this resolution and that the resolution seemed to protect perpetrators. The reasoning behind this stemmed from the suggestion that the investigators’ authority would be reduced in favor of a hearing process agreed upon by both parties.
According to Allyson Blackburn from Consent Culture Network, this proposal would, in some respects, revert Tufts’ Title IX proceedings back to the state they were in when Tufts was found to be in violation of Title IX several years ago. Some senators also felt that survivors should not be barred from investigations and adjudications.
During the debate, there was call to vote on whether to vote on the resolution, which passed, so senators held a roll call vote. The resolution failed in a vote of zero for, 25 against and one abstention.
In response to the outcome, both Goldberg and Takata were upset.
“I think that this is a perfect example of why we need an impartial procedure, because this was not impartial. I think people need to take things with an even playing field,” Takata said.
Regarding SAS’ next plans, Goldberg added, “We’re currently working on a project out [in] California, as well as up at Colby. We’re discussing things with students, so we as an organization have many things to busy ourselves with and we look forward to continuing to do so.”
TCU Senate President Gauri Seth expressed frustration that the resolution was proposed without consulting survivors.
“It’s egregious to bring a resolution forward regarding Tufts’ sexual misconduct policy that claims to protect both parties, when the authors of the resolution stated multiple times that they had not spoken to survivors on this campus,” Seth told the Daily.
Likewise, Asian American Community Senator Jacqueline Chen found it telling that survivors of sexual assault were not consulted.
“I think that the authors need to think long and hard about who they’re really advocating for when they bring forth these resolutions, because it’s clear that they don’t have much support from anyone in the student body,” Chen told the Daily in an electronic message.
However, Goldberg later told the Daily in an electronic message that he reached out to several campus organizations to solicit feedback on the resolution, but he said they declined.
Blackburn was frustrated that Goldberg expects survivor groups to work with SAS on its resolution.
“When a resolution suggests that survivors of sexual violence are not capable to serve in decision making panels, on the assumption that survivors are incapable of rational thought, I am not surprised that multiple groups had no desire to work with SAS on this resolution,” Blackburn told the Daily in an electronic message.
Allocations Board and Committee Updates
Following the resolution and a short break, TCU Senate Treasurer Chris Leaverton took the floor to discuss supplementary funding requests.
Tufts Ballroom Dance Team wanted to rent venues for a show and a social. The Allocations Board (ALBO) matched the request, and it passed by acclamation. The Vietnamese Students Club needed funding for a empowerment show, and ALBO’s recommendation factored in personal contributions. It passed by acclamation.
The third and last request came from Jumbo Jugglers for WOMBAT, its annual spinning and juggling festival. ALBO reduced the funding for printing and its recommendation passed by acclamation.
TCU Senate Vice President Shai Slotky then took the floor to ask for committee updates.
Chen, who is chair of the Student Outreach Committee, said that they will work on a catalog of senators’ projects and an event where people can provide feedback about Senate. Culture, Ethnicity, Community Affairs committee members talked about the new LGBT Center Director, getting meals for students in the period between pre-orientation and orientation week and a petition urging Tufts to support the Safe Communities Act in the Massachusetts Legislature.
The Education Committee is conducting interviews for the six finalists for Professor of the Year, and the results are being gathered from a survey sent out about French and Spanish minors, according to senators. The Services Committee is working on expanding the number of locations which accept JumboCash, and so far Oath Craft Pizza has accepted.
Seth said that she and senator Malachy Donovan met with Tufts Technology Services to discuss the possibility of a new online platform for voting in TCU Senate elections. She also met with the outgoing bursar of the Medford/Somerville campus to make financial aid refunds be disbursed before the first few days of classes so that students can pay for expenses earlier.
Leaverton then noted that the current director of club sports, Branwen Smith-King is leaving. Leaverton said that he and Seth are looking into the model for club sports funding.
The meeting then adjourned.