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viewpoint

Astonishment and admonishment

| Friday, April 17, 2015

Dear Carol Ann Mooney, Saint Mary’s College and Administrative Personnel,

This letter is our response to the screening of “The Hunting Ground” on April 9.  We want to begin by recognizing that Saint Mary’s College offers support resources to victims of sexual assault and, when necessary, reports the assault to the appropriate Title IX coordinator.

There are aspects of the screening that concern us, including insufficient panel responses and comments from President Mooney. Her demeanor when introducing the film was suspect based on her refusal to acknowledge that, although she may respect student privacy, she values the financial status of the College more. That was made clear by her reluctance to be interviewed on film and by the stories featured in the film about Saint Mary’s women.

As students, we pay thousands of dollars to this institution. This commitment creates an obligation on the part of our College to advocate for, support and protect us. Because of its failure to uphold this responsibility, we are extremely disappointed in this College and President Mooney. As opposed to answering questions briefly and in ways that protect the institution, President Mooney should be more receptive to students’ criticisms of her demeanor as uncaring.

Moreover, we are extremely upset that, because of the media presence, our questions appeared like they were being censored in the hallway outside of the auditorium. This attempt to maintain a good image is disheartening in so many ways. Obviously, once again, College officials are putting our concerns second. Additionally, although Professor Frances Kominkiewicz showed deep empathy and compassion for our students, she went along with this censoring because Ashley Hall was seen pointing out which parts of questions were acceptable to ask the panelists — as opposed to reading the full comment card.

Furthermore, even when answering the questions that were actually posed to the panelists, there was a refusal to fully or directly answer those questions. For example, when a question was asked regarding President Mooney’s refusal to appear on film due to privacy concerns, Connie Adams was expected to answer this question — something she would clearly be unable to do in her position at the College. And the person responsible for answering that question, Mooney, chose to maintain her silence and sit in the audience.

Saint Mary’s advocacy for its students is lacking. The reporting and investigative processes are completed only to the minimal requirements by law: Our administrators appear to feel no further responsibility to their students after informing Notre Dame’s Title IX coordinator, Mark Kocovski, of an assault against our students on his campus. Officials at Saint Mary’s have a duty to ensure students a proper and thorough investigation. The College claims to be a legally separate institution yet does not pressure Notre Dame to perform a just and complete investigation due to some perceived obligation to the institution across the street.

Both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are bold, proud, Catholic institutions. All administrators representing these schools need to uphold the Catholic faith’s values when acting on behalf of these institutions. Sexual assault is an affront to the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church and demands sufficient investigation and punishment, which is presently absent.

In conclusion, our College has neglected to adequately advocate for us. As future alumnae, we cannot continue to financially support an institution which has so unequivocally failed to uphold its duties to its patrons as a Catholic institution. At this point, we would like to end our letter.

We offer the following recommendations as opportunities for the College to fulfill its duties to its studies:

  • Be more critical of the Title IX process, which disadvantages us as a single-sex institution.
  • Further, until administrators fully and publicly support our students by being critical of Notre Dame, our institution should ensure that students who wish to seek legal recourse are able to do so by providing us with adequate legal counsel.
  • Push Notre Dame to disclose the number of reported sexual assaults on its campus, especially regarding our students, and the outcomes of such reports.
  • Devote more resources to preventative measures as opposed to treating later sexual assaults as administrative issues.
  • If changes are not made by the administration, we suggest that Saint Mary’s fully sever ties with Notre Dame (e.g., no student tickets, no Domerfest, no Co-Exchange) so that we are actually two separate institutions.

We would also like to add that if Saint Mary’s does not move toward making these changes, some of which feature minimal expectations needed to promote justice and uphold our Catholic dignity as humans, and others which will be more maximal recommendations, then we, as future alumnae, will be unable to financially support this institution as donors and will encourage all signees to do the same.

 

Michelle Griffin

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Anna Nolan

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

The following students support the Recommendations outlined above:

Michaela Eby

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Hillary Mangiaforte

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Rachel Wall

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Payton Moore

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Christa Costello

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Logan Nevonen

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Tabitha Hackbush

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Justine Bresnahan

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Claire Stewart

senior

Saint Mary’s

 

Eleanor Jones,

junior

Saint Mary’s

 

Giovanna Posselius

sophomore

Saint Mary’s

 

Jenny Ng

sophomore

Notre Dame

 

Rebekah DuDevoir

freshman

Saint Mary’s

 

Madelyne Harry

freshman

Saint Mary’s

 

Veronika Hanks

freshman

Saint Mary’s

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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