Deans office falls short in students’ protection

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

At the very end of last semester, I wrote my first editorial for the Collegian. It was only published online because the subject matter was serious and extremely personal, and I had to sit on it for a couple of weeks before deciding that I was okay with airing my personal baggage to readers.

My focus last semester was on the Massachusetts judicial system and their treatment of my case – multiple incidents of sexual assault committed by the same individual. In short, I was denied a Harassment Prevention Order against the person (a UMass student) who assaulted me because he only touched me on two occasions and the minimum requirement for an HPO is three separate incidents.

The first incident happened in March and the next in early April. A few days after the second assault, and after being denied in court, I went to the Dean of Students for help. The situation only came to a close a week ago – five months after the Dean’s office became aware of it. Police reports were filed. Security footage was burned to DVD. They told me that the average turnaround rate for their cases is about five weeks. I spent much of my summer worrying about coming back to school and possibly having a third incident with this individual.

While it is perfectly understandable that the Dean’s office has difficulty keeping up with cases during the summertime (they typically need to sit down with each student involved in a case, sometimes on more than one occasion, before making any progress – an arduous task in the summer months), there were aspects of their process that were completely unreasonable.

I was told that the Dean’s office would be communicating with me every step of the way. As the semester ended and summer began, I was repeatedly given new timeframes. I was told the situation would be dealt with within a few weeks. I e-mailed after those weeks and was given very little information. Several of my e-mails went completely unanswered.

Naturally, I became frustrated, angry, and upset. These feelings escalated as the summer progressed and I continued to be left in the dark about the situation. Finally, the time came for me to move back onto campus. The day before moving in, I e-mailed the Dean’s office once again, in a perhaps too-blatant fashion: “I was hoping that [this matter] would be settled prior to my returning to campus as I am not enjoying the idea of having to continue to deal with [the student] and his dangerous tendencies… I have been told numerous times that I would be hearing from the Dean’s office at various points over the summer, and I have not. As this pertains to a matter of my personal safety and security on campus, I feel that I am entitled to an update at this point.”

The response I received from that e-mail was less-than-helpful. I received a phone call and was told in an extremely light manner that the Dean’s office had not yet been able to meet with the student because he was out of state working on an internship all summer, a detail I did not need to know because frankly, I could not care any less about the person who physically attacked me and got away with it. In my mind, there was really no reason for a meeting not to take place. Telephones exist.

The rest of the call was used to discuss “the tone of my e-mail.” Apparently it is unreasonable to ask to be updated, at long last, about a situation as serious as this one. Was I frustrated with the Dean’s handling of the situation? Hell yes. I do not need to be spoken to the way that I so often was. Most of my meetings and correspondences with the Dean’s office focused on them defending their procedure.

Up until this past Friday, I was not given a solid update at any time. While I am satisfied with the sanctions that are being imposed, I feel as though the severity of the case should have led to a resolution in less than five months.

Now the only problem remaining is that, because he is still enrolled in the University, I still cross paths with the offending student on a semi-regular basis. I still don’t feel completely safe on campus, and I don’t expect to.

Ellie Rulon-Miller is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

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