Universities Need to Speak Up on Harassment
November 28, 2017
Earlier this month, an incident of extreme harassment and bullying at the University of Hartford made several headlines. The victim, Chennel Rowe, did not receive justice for the heinous acts committed against her until after her story received significant media attention. Incidents where student victims are purposefully neglected occur not just at Hartford, but at numerous universities, including NYU. By ignoring harassment claims, universities create environments where students think they can report these incidents, and consequently do not feel safe. Students have every right to have their claims heard and to feel safe; rather than try to put their reputations first, universities must take every allegation seriously for the sake of their students’ well-beings.
Rowe was harassed mentally and physically by her roommate, Brianna Brochu. The perpetrator rubbed bodily fluids on Rowe’s possessions and poured moldy food in her lotion. Rowe shared her story online via Facebook Live, and it almost immediately went viral. Rowe’s roommate has since been expelled and charged with third-degree criminal mischief, and Hartford’s president issued an official letter condemning her acts. But this response occurred only after Rowe’s video gained mass media attention. In said video, Rowe said the residence hall’s staff encouraged her not to speak up about the harassment unless she wanted to risk being kicked out of her dorm, which rightfully infuriated Rowe. Most universities claim to guarantee the safety and well-being of their students, but actions such as those taken by Hartford suggest that universities will place their own personal gain before the wellbeing of their students.
But NYU is no more innocent than the University of Hartford. This publication has previously reported on how NYU does not always alert students of instances of sexual assault. This still rings true. Just a few days ago, the NYU crime log reported an incident of domestic violence in Washington Square Park, but there was no university-wide notification sent regarding the incident. In 2015, WSN also published a piece on the scandal revolving around Professor Harilaos Kitsikopoulos, in which Kitsikopoulos was charged with domestic violence, and the university claimed that it was not its responsibility to report on so-called confidential employee matters. While this may be NYU’s policy, it was completely irresponsible on NYU’s part to attempt to stay silent on these issues. What if one of Kitsikopoulos’ students had been a victim of assault or harassment? How would this have affected their standing in that class and their relationship with the university? Would they be able to claim, as NYU promises its student body, that they feel completely safe in NYU’s environment?
It’s understandable that universities don’t want their respective campuses to be marked by frequent incidents of harassment, but completely ignoring these situations and the students affected should not be the solution. NYU and other universities must take action to prove their claims of being fully committed to diversity and working against discrimination and harassment. They must understand that what allows their institutions to thrive are the very students they are allegedly supporting, and they should respect that we have the right to be informed of what is occurring on our campus.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Melanie Pineda at [email protected]