Late Monday night, April 10, 2017 a Junior student on campus decided to create a google document titled Earlham College Black List, designed to give rape and/or sexual assault survivors a safe platform to list past and present “predators” and “abusers” on campus. After this google document was created, it was publicly posted and shared to the “Earlham Anonymous” facebook page, which led to much chaos. Although the list was created Monday night, tensions were high and conversations continued to spark Tuesday.
The google document stated that it was an “open and 100% anonymous document that will serve as a record of the names of individuals at Earlham College (both current and recent past members of the community) who are sexual predators and abusers”. The document was intended to be a “judgement-free space” and insisted that it would “keep each other safe and make predators afraid”. The list ended with a total of approximately 30 names, most of which were people of color.
As an immediate response, ESG released a statement stating,“While we understand and support the cause behind the creation of this document, ESG 2017 collectively cannot condone the document’s implementation. We also cannot condone the minimizing of these issues by people who participated in ridiculing the document and the issues it represents.” The statement stated that situations like these “tear apart the community of Earlham, and shift the focus of the conversation from the issues that need to be addressed to the shock and stress that comes from unaccountable allegations.”
It is speculated that the idea to create this document derived from survivors feeling like their voices have not been heard and their reports against sexual violence and assault have been swept under the rug and ignored by administration countless times. Most recently, spring semester 2016, several survivors came forward and made reports stating that they had been assaulted by former student Lucas Barber. As a result, administration seemed to be provide a lack of support regarding the issue leaving survivors feeling unsafe and afraid. It seems that this document was an attempt at students taking matters into their own hands. However, much backlash was the result.
Students used this document as an opportunity to be intentionally racist and harmful by placing “all the black dudes on campus” on the list, which was later erased. This statement further perpetuated the historical intersectionalities between race and sexual violence. However, this list also seemed to lack any way to validate any of the “alleged perpetrators”. Kaitlyn Brunner, a senior art major stated that she was “disappointed in the list”. The list was composed by anonymous people, which makes it hard to decipher whether some names on the list were placed on the list as a joke or a way to perpetuate racist injustices. The list indicated that names should only be submitted by survivors and of their abusers only, but there was also no way to validate that this was done or if some names were based purely on “here say”.
Although the document held good intentions, it quickly spun out of control and became extremely problematic, leaving several students outraged, hurt, and victimized. Several students and alumni voiced concerns and pushed back on the severity and problematic nature of the list on social media stating their must have been a better way to organize and create change. Some alumni even offered assisting in the process. However, for the alumni who were on the list, they were left blindsided and having to defend their name against allegations. This list jeopardizes their reputation and place in society due to the severity of the accusations.
It is very evident that this was not the proper way to keep survivors “safe”. For the people who actually do identify as survivors of sexual assault on campus, they were left feeling targeted and victimized. The people that were listed on the list (wrongfully accused or not) were placed under a microscope and subjected to judgment without being proven guilty, which led to much psychological and physical bodily harm.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Action Against Sexual Violence (AASV) conducted an “All Student Forum” with the intent to discussion initial reactions to the “Black List” and where to go from here. Brunner mentioned the lack of awareness and inclusivity in the Earlham community when it comes to these issues. She said that it is ridiculous that we receive “emails about assaults happening at Marsh but not internal incidents.” Other students in the room voiced concerns about lack of support for students of color, lack of clarification of what’s considered sexual harassment and sexual violence, lack of support from administration, and lack of knowledge of the legal processes, amongst more. Genesis Galo, senior Politics major, stated that there is a “toxic” environment concerning alcohol on campus and a clear misunderstanding of the meaning of consent when you’re drunk.
Throughout the meeting, students suggested that there should be an on campus lawyer to provide students with legal advice who may not know what to do or how to go about these situations. It was also suggested that there is more information regarding consent to clear up grey areas during NSO training, sensitivity training for all faculty members, and female officers in public safety. People of Color specifically continue to feel alienated and unsafe due to the dehumanization of Black people, Black men in particular that occupied the list.
Dana North, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Human Resources, and Shane Peters, Interim VP of Student Life and Dean of Students sent out an email providing students with information about how to access the campus Policy on Sex/Gender Harassment, Discrimination, and Misconduct. The email also insisted that “those accused will be provided an opportunity to respond to accusations, and it should be noted, a false accusation will be taken seriously and addressed through the Code of Conduct as an act of harassment”.
Until Earlham College takes a bigger stance on providing safety and support to their students’ needs, there will continue to be tensions and a lack of trust from students toward administration.