A Decade of Disappointment: An Alumna’s Perspective on Title IX

Jessica Doyle (Sykes) ’16, Former Editor-in-Chief

In March 2011, a year and a half before I arrived on campus, almost 300 students marched from Morgan Field to Old West, where they staged a sit-in to protest Dickinson’s sexual misconduct policy. 

This was not the first instance of students expressing concerns over this policy. Some seniors at the 2011 protest said they were still working to address unresolved issues from 2009. Students said the process for lodging a sexual assault complaint was taking too long and was too fragmented. 

In response, the college agreed to use its Red Alert system to report instances of sexual assault and to post the outcomes of any disciplinary hearings on these cases.    

In September 2012, former President William Durden formed a Presidential Working Group on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault and Title IX following concerns regarding the implementation of the policy.

Proving futile, students voiced concerns again in 2014 about a policy that Durden’s working group adopted a year earlier. Students were worried that victims would be queried about their sexual history, something that could dissuade people from reporting sexual assault.

While then-President Nancy Roseman decided to reform the working group, the issue of transparency and accountability still remained. And this is why, six years later, the college is faced with the same challenges yet again. 

Each time, the college has had a similar response. “We take these matters seriously; we investigate every case that is brought to our attention; we follow the laws…,” you name it. But as Rose McAvoy’s case has shown us, the investigations last too long. They don’t bring justice for the victims. They don’t remove the perpetrator.  

As a Dickinson alumna, I’m disheartened to hear Rose’s story. I’m disheartened by Dickinson’s response. And I’m disheartened that year after year, we are faced with the same sexual assault issues on campus. 

In the past decade, Dickinson has seen a repeated cycle of student protests followed by small change. The lack of structural reform feeds into this cycle and does not address the larger deficiencies. The administration’s responses often try to diffuse the crisis, instead of overhaul the system.  

Despite this, I’m still encouraged. Encouraged and inspired by Rose’s bravery to share her story and publically stand up for justice.  Encouraged that alumni are voicing their concerns, creating the Alumni for Title IX Reform and demanding change. Encouraged by the current students, protesting in the HUB to make their voices heard. 

As a former co-Editor-in-Chief of The Dickinsonian, I’m proud that the student newspaper is projecting student voices, providing a platform for the discussion and preserving the latest failure to address this issue for the historical record. 

For all these reasons, I thank the alumni who started the petition to withhold donations to Dickinson College until concrete steps have been taken to fix its broken Title IX system. This platform, Rose’s activism and the movement on campus provide the college an opportunity to make meaningful change and stop the cycle. 

This is not just wishful thinking. The Dickinson College Title IX Reform movement has laid out concrete steps to address this issue. 

I have a lot to thank Dickinson for, and am a very proud alumna. I am grateful that Dickinson taught me to think critically, encouraged me to engage with diverse perspectives and introduced me to many life-long friends and my husband.

It’s because I am a proud Dickinsonian that I know we can do better. And it’s because we can do better that I’m supporting Rose and Dickinson College Title IX reform. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about issues with Dickinson’s sexual misconduct policy. But I sure hope it’s the last. 

[Editor’s Note: Jessica Doyle (Sykes) was Editor in Chief of The Dickinsonian for the 2015 – 2016 academic year.