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Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch must resign

Occidental College is a small school in northeastern Los Angeles. It’s got about 2,000 students at any one time. And it’s got a huge sexual assault problem: yesterday, 38 students and alumnae of Occidental filed a Title IX complaint with the Federal Department of Education claiming that the college violated civil rights law in its handling of reports of sexual assaults and rapes — which seem to happen on the Oxy campus with terrifying frequency.

Survivors of rape and sexual assault at Occidental report that administrators threatened them with unpleasant consequences when they enquired about the process of reporting a sexual assault. Survivors were warned that the hearings process was “long and arduous.” One survivor was told she’d be the one switching dorms rather than her assailant. When men were found in the course of college hearings to have indeed committed rapes of their fellow students, they were often merely suspended temporarily — and in at least two cases, those suspensions were lifted on appeal and the rapists “sentenced” to writing book reports instead.

Gloria Allred, who is providing the 38 plaintiffs with representation in their Title IX complaint, reports in the video embedded below that when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force.

Here Allred speaks, along with several remarkably brave survivors and supportive faculty member Caroline Heldman, the school’s Politics Department chair.

What’s been the response of Occidental College president Jonathan Veitch to the issue? Browbeating sexual assault survivors in the campus press when they dare suggest he’s sitting with his thumbs up his ass:

I’m dismayed that having agreed to that conversation, a number of well-intentioned people have chosen to cast our motives into doubt; vilify dedicated, hard-working members of Student Affairs; question the sincerity of our response; and actively sought to embarrass the College on the evening news. That is their choice, and there is very little I can do about it. I can say that it reflects poorly on their commitment to this conversation and to the broader education that must take place if we are to change a culture we all find repugnant. The repugnance of sexual assault is not open to question; but the policies and procedures that guide our response to those incidents is something about which reasonable people can disagree. I’m sure there are those who feel that confrontation is necessary to exert pressure on the College to do the right thing. But there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive with regard to our shared aims. When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

That letter to the campus paper was published March 5. Veitch has since walked it back some, saying that his letter may have “alienated people who care about sexual assault” and clarifying that his intent was to object to “the implication–reported in the media — that the College is not serious about the issue of sexual assault. We are very serious.”

Serious enough to have brought in, just this week, experienced sexual assault prosecutors as consultants to help the school assess and overhaul its enforcement policy. That’s a smart and sensible move.

It’s just too bad that Veitch waited until campus anti-rape activists lit a bonfire under his doubly enthumbed ass, complete with an appeal to the Department of Education to lift the school’s federal funding, before taking a step he should have taken on Day One. Veitch has been president at Occidental since 2009. That means all the students in the video linked above were raped on Veitch’s watch. All the administrative obstacles to survivors reporting assaults against them mentioned here happened on Veitch’s watch. All the stories relayed in the video above: On Veitch’s watch. All the assigned book reports and community service sentences for acts that should have brought jail time and sex offender registry? On Veitch’s watch.

Not that Veitch’s resigning would fix Occidental College’s rape problem: it sounds as though there are a few other administrators with serious culpability who ought to be examined as well.

But it would be a good start.

Comments

  1. Pteryxx says

    But there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive with regard to our shared aims.

    ‘We’re all in this together, isn’t that right, uppity lying bitchez who just won’t shut up about being raped on my watch? Group hug!’

    *spits*

  2. gridironmonger says

    Our current president, Mr. Obama, went to Occidental for 2 yrs before transferring to Columbia. I hope he hears of this and makes it a point to be sure the Department of Education does it’s job vis-a-vis this case.

  3. brianl says

    Resign? No, I’m thinking more fired and blackballed then arrested, tried as an accessory after the fact, and imprisoned.

  4. shouldbeworking says

    When men were found in the course of college hearings to have indeed committed rapes of their fellow students, they were often merely suspended temporarily — and in at least two cases, those suspensions were lifted on appeal and the rapists “sentenced” to writing book reports instead.

    Does this mean the college investigated instead of real police?

  5. anuran says

    Rape is such a heinous crime that every country following English Common or Dutch-Roman Law permits you to kill someone rather than be raped or to allow a third party to be raped. Writing a motherfucking book report as “punishment” is criminal.

    College disciplinary procedures and Honor Boards are not the right institutions to investigate and prosecute violent felonies. That’s what the police are for.

  6. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    Does this mean the college investigated instead of real police?

    Many colleges have their own real police. Some are competent, some are professional, some are not. Just like towns and cities and counties and states.

  7. robro says

    “Conversation?” I wonder what he means by that. Sounds like it might be a weasel word for shut up, sit down, stop causing trouble, and do what I say. But, hey, what’s one more weasel word among so many.

  8. Trebuchet says

    Many colleges have their own real police. Some are competent, some are professional, some are not. Just like towns and cities and counties and states.

    My college days are long behind me but as I recall, the “Campus Charlies” were held somewhere below mall cops in general regard. They were also the most powerful cops around as in addition to their authority on campus, they were also deputy county sheriffs and city police. The campus was not in the city limits so they were pretty much the only authority there.

    Occidental, however, is a pretty small school and may not have cops of its own.

  9. newfie says

    Why are these rapes not reported to the LAPD? Why is a college involved in criminal complaints in the first place? Do they handle murder cases too? Something in this story is fucked up. What am I missing? I thought police departments handle crimes.

  10. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why are these rapes not reported to the LAPD? Why is a college involved in criminal complaints in the first place? Do they handle murder cases too? Something in this story is fucked up. What am I missing? I thought police departments handle crimes.

    Rich alumni don’t like bad press. So the college attempted to squash rape complaints so they weren’t part of the public record (which would be the case if the LAPD was involved), which can hurt their fundraising.

  11. says

    He needs to resign and face charges. All these incidents happened on his watch. A damn BOOK REPORT was punishment for sexual assault??!! That makes me livid.
    It is time a serious campaign begins in this country to get men to stop raping. In addition proper sex ed including what sexual assault and rape are. I often wonder how to properly convey the horror of sexual assault to those that minimize rape.

  12. newfie says

    Rich alumni don’t like bad press. So the college attempted to squash rape complaints so they weren’t part of the public record (which would be the case if the LAPD was involved), which can hurt their fundraising.

    Alred said that some have been found guilty by the college. Rape is a crime that is procecuted in a court of law, not by a frickin’ college president or administration. Rapists go to prision, not get warnings or fucking book reports. WTF?? If the LAPD aren’t doing anything about criminal complaints to protect a college, they need to be investigated by the US Justice Department for corruption. Who is telling students to report rapes to a college instead of the police? That’s interference in a criminal offence, which I believe, is crime in its own right.

  13. cicely (mumblemumble-SomethingHalf-Witty-mumblemumble) says

    Oh, yes indeed; shutting up about it always solves any problem! Always has, always will!
    </sarcasm>
    Go Team Ostrich!
    -

  14. robro says

    I think I see only one older man standing in support of these women (in the very back on the left). It’s appropriate that he isn’t prominent, and of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate for men to take over as we are so prone to do. But still, aren’t there a few more men among the faculty and students who recognize they have a place supporting their fellow humans in standing against abuse and official bullying?

    Nerd — “Rich alumni don’t like bad press.” Sure, but as Penn State learned, suppressing such crimes is far worse for the school’s prestige than confronting them forthrightly. If Paterno and the admin at the school had done their job, then the impact of Sandusky’s actions would have been a lot less. Most importantly, there would have been fewer victims. Alumni, rich or otherwise, should realize this and pressure school administrations to take action. No one gains from looking the other way.

  15. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Words cannot begin to express how angry I am at hearing about the maltreatment of these courageous young women and their attempts to get justice. After the child abuse scandal at Penn State, the president, coach, and AD were fired or forced to resign, and several high ranking administrators are facing charges (according to Wiki) for not reporting. Why hasn’t this happened at Oxy?

    The only way that the administration will begin to address this is if the alumni, en mass refuse to financially support the university. Money counts for a lot. That’s probably the only way that the real power, the trustees or board of directors, will act, if they haven’t already.

  16. DLC says

    Oh, right… make the College President resign just because those uppity vagina custodians* get the idea in their little heads that they shouldn’t be brutally violated by manly-man doods.

    (*Obviously no woman ever actually owns her own body, but merely has custody of the reproductive organs, who belong to her husband or to god if she’s unmarried.)

    [Note for the sarcasm-impaired: yes, the above is sarcasm, and is intended for humor]

  17. theoreticalgrrrl says

    When people ask why there are so few women in _________, this is why.
    I mean, I guess, in a way, you could argue it’s due to biology. Having a vagina means violence and assault are not real crimes, and guys shouldn’t be punished for following their natural urges while studying to be engineers and doctors and all the stuff women are not supposed to be as good at as men. PTSD is just more proof women are too frail and psychologically delicate to handle men’s occupations and superior thinking abilities.

  18. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    I’ve been following this on Lisa Wade’s blog (Sociological Images). It seems certain that the college is in violation of the Clery Act. My alma mater was found to have violated it and was fined $80,000, so it is serious business! As someone who followed the debacle at my uni closely, and worked with the Sexual Assault Taskforce to educate students, let me just say that colleges have a vested interest in keeping sexual assault reports low. They fail to report to police and urge victims not to. They often do not follow through on disciplinary measures. They roadblock. This isn’t just an Oxy problem–this is a college problem.

    My #1 advice to all my students was DO NOT TRUST TO COLLEGE. Go to the police. [Depressingly, they often can't trust the police either.]

  19. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Also, we’re obviously are just emotional creatures not capable of being calm and rational. Just look at how the female professor at the end of the video almost started crying.

  20. theoreticalgrrrl says

    ^” we’re obviously are” ??
    See, I can’t even type without screwing up.

  21. Pteryxx says

    Cyranothe2nd, thanks for pointing to Sociological Images. Great summary here:

    A group of Occidental College students and sexual assault survivors will hold a press conference in about half an hour revealing that Gloria Allred will be representing them in a legal case against the college. One of the most powerful civil rights attorneys in the world, previously Allred has sued the likes of Arnold Schwartzenegger, Herman Cain, Sasha Baron Cohen, Aaron Spelling, Tiger Woods, Boy Scouts of America, and Scott Peterson. She will be working pro bono.

    This development comes at the same time that the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition – having spent years documenting an unjust and illegal process – has submitted two complaints to the federal government: (1) a Title IX complaint with the Office for Civil Rights arguing that Occidental is a hostile environment for women and (2) an argument that the college is in violation of the Clery Act, which requires timely and accurate reporting of crimes on campus.

    I am a faculty member at Occidental College. In this post I describe what’s happening, why, what I expect the backlash to look like, and what I hope will come of this.

  22. anuran says

    Yeah, but here’s a real live Philosophy Professor who is leading a Colloquium against “Sexual” “Assault” “Awareness”.

    He has described his lecture as being a response to “false” statistics about sexual assault perpetuated by the college. He believes that rape culture is a myth, sexual assault is not a problem on college campuses, especially not our campus, and that women over report sexual assault.

  23. anuran says

    (Believes getting rid of tar, feathers, horsewhips and split rails for professors like this may have been premature)

  24. blazinghand says

    I was a student at Occidental College in the class of 2012. My personal experience at Oxy has been that the professors (and Professor Heldman, in particular) are very supportive of a positive anti-rape culture. Nominally, the administration supports this, and the ASOC provides funding for excellent programming such as the Vagina Monologues on campus. That being said, my individual interactions with administrators led me to believe that most of the good ones move on quickly to other schools, and the bad ones stay.

  25. cyberCMDR says

    Unfortunately, this sounds all too similar to how the the military often handles rapes and sexual assaults. I wonder if he was ex-military, before he became the school president?

  26. yoav says

    So basically the dude considers criticism of the way the collage deals with rape to be more serious then the actual rapes, too bad the job of pope is already taken.

  27. BJ Survivor says

    Don’t get hysterical, ladies. These upstanding young men could have their lives ruined for a simple misunderstanding, an regrettable mistake. /gag

  28. unclefrogy says

    I was reading along about this depressing story wondering how it came to be in the news and what made the university president resign. then I read Gloria Allred and a wicked grin spread over my face. She often turns up causing trouble for the status quo.
    She does not give up easily. The press seems to like it when she is involved she gets coverage which is a good thing.
    uncle frogy

  29. says

    I’m dismayed that having agreed to that conversation, a number of well-intentioned people have chosen to cast our motives into doubt; vilify dedicated, hard-working members of Student Affairs; question the sincerity of our response; [...] I can say that it reflects poorly on their commitment to this conversation [...] something about which reasonable people can disagree [...] there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive [...] When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

    *hork*

    someone needs to finally make a civility bingo card, because this shit reads like mad-libbing from a civility-template. All that was missing was a “both sides made mistakes” line.

  30. says

    He has described his lecture as being a response to “false” statistics about sexual assault perpetuated by the college. He believes that rape culture is a myth, sexual assault is not a problem on college campuses, especially not our campus, and that women over report sexual assault.

    diagnosis: terminal MRA syndrome, highly dangerous; quarantine suggested.

  31. says

    when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force.

    And then he complains that his motives are cast into doubt?

    actively sought to embarrass the College on the evening news.

    Translation: You’re hurting the movement College.

    I’m sure there are those who feel that confrontation is necessary to exert pressure on the College to do the right thing.

    Translation: Why are you being so divisive?

    Hmm, I wonder where I heard that kind of rethoric before (/sarcasm).

  32. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Cheeses! You could run the national organization for a major “Republican” Presidential candidate with a style like that!

    I’ll assume he’s a vicious piece of shit now, and apologize later should this turn out to be incorrect, given the charges and the unlikelihood his actions are being distorted.

  33. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Zinc Avenger

    Apparently he believes people who care about sexual assault exist, but he’s not sure he’s ever met one.

    Of course he has! Didn’t you read:

    when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force

    He had over to his house one person who cares very much about sexual assault and the social response to it. Maybe at the party he was getting his advice on how to respond to accusations.

  34. smhll says

    someone needs to finally make a civility bingo card, because this shit reads like mad-libbing from a civility-template. All that was missing was a “both sides made mistakes” line.

    I had the same thought. I took one more point off on my scoring of this cliche checklist because, while he said “villify”, he forgot to use the word “vitriol” in one of his complete (but empty) sentences.

  35. ck says

    What happened to the good ole days where an administrator would pretend to be deeply concerned about the problem you brought to their attention, and turn around and forget about it the moment the problem (i.e. the person reporting the problem) had left? Don’t they teach these guys anything anymore?

  36. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I do think that JV should resign. But I don’t think he will until he loses confidence of the Board of Whatever. My cynicism says as long as he keeps the money coming in, they will look the other way, as these boards are often stacked with RWA types. They might act if the publicity gets hot enough.

  37. zmidponk says

    Hmm.

    When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

    Well, even accepting the rather dubious assertion that it has crossed this threshold, in this case, it caused Veitch to actually get off his arse and do something, so it actually DID lead to progress, so this would appear to be simply false.

  38. says

    A student reporting a rape to the college is like
    reporting priestly sexual abuse to a bishop.

    I thought american criminal law applied all over the country, even on a campus.
    Not? Could somebody please explain this to me.

    Seems like if I raped a student and if I was not a student
    they couldn’t touch me. Wow! What have I been missing
    all this last half century?

  39. Ruby says

    I didn’t see this mentioned in other comments, so I thought I’d add, while I’m not sure if it’s the case here, many colleges mandate that things like this MUST be reported *only* to the college police and will expel any student that seeks the aid of outside law enforcement.

    I have no clue how the fuck that’s legal, but it is a thing and it keeps survivors from going to the cops.

  40. theoreticalgrrrl says

    @cyberCMDR
    Yes, a very similar thing is happening in the U.S. military, it’s horrifying. The thing that gets me is our American soldiers are being attacked by their own brothers in arms, not by some ‘enemy’ on the other side of an armed conflict. If I had a daughter I would discourage her from joining the military, seriously. If I had a daughter, should I also discourage her from getting an education? This is why I don’t want to have kids.

  41. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    From the website linked by Pteryxx:

    and Occidental has let at least three men found responsible for more than one assault back on campus after their victims have graduated, exposing a new crop of unsuspecting women to a known predator.

    I think I feel sick.

  42. thumper1990 says

    What rape culture? A book report is plenty of punishment for rape! I mean shit, she probably wanted it anyway, amiright?

    /snark

    I am so angry I’ve gone cold.