Amidst ongoing controversy over how Marist College handles abuse claims on campus, the college’s It’s On Us chapter president Grace Leavitt shared how her group is fighting for greater transparency and accountability.
The Poughkeepsie Journal recently covered the uproar over Marist’s handling of an abuse allegation from sophomore Jahira Magnus. This follows a Change.org petition that went viral demanding the removal of a male student athlete who was accused of domestic violence against his former girlfriend. That student athlete has since left the school.
Leavitt notes in an email that these instances are part of a larger pattern on campus.
“I think that students have been subject to abuse on our campus at a greater risk because of the lack of transparency in the Title IX office,” she said. “In many cases, we have seen that perpetrators have had consequences that only lasted a short period of time. This is troubling because these perpetrators are able to continue to be on the Marist campus where they could, and have, continued to harm more students.”
Marist’s counsel claimed in the Journal article that they failed to submit their annual security report on its original deadline, which would have revealed the extent of abuse and other threatening claims on campus, because of the pandemic. They did so after a three-month extension.
For Leavitt, it was too little, too late. It was also a possible violation of the Clery Act, a national law that seeks to provide awareness of any allegations of campus crimes and policies to address these allegations.
“I think that in many cases, Marist is more concerned with their image than with the issues that are causing poor publicity,” she said. “I can confidently say that we all wish to be proud of the school we attend but this is difficult currently.”
One of the concerns that has been raised is a lack of Title IX funding. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal money.
Currently, Marist has one Title IX coordinator. While the Vice President of Human Resources Christina Daniele recently stated in the Poughkeepsie Journal article that they are looking to add on more staff to the Title IX office, Marist currently boasts a barebones Title IX response in comparison to its fellow liberal arts colleges.
Vassar College and Fairfield University in Connecticut have smaller student bodies, but a more robust Title IX office. Fairfield University lists 10 staff members on their Title IX team, while Vassar College has four staff members who are involved with their equal opportunity and affirmative action committee.
“Our competitor colleges have many more employees working for their Title IX office than we do,” said Leavitt. “At nearly 7,000 students, one employee is not enough to support the prevalent issue of sexual assault on our campus.”