Thursday morning was crucial for 16(IX)3. We spent prior months refining a petition to make essential improvements to the College of William and Mary’s current sexual misconduct policy. We surpassed our goal, gathering over 1,100 signatures. We planned to attend the Board of Visitors Audit and Compliance meeting on large-scale policy and efforts to improve campus safety. Unfortunately, we were denied entry to that meeting.
The College’s actions on Thursday morning were illegal. For a government body to deny entry to a public meeting is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Our rights were violated as students and members of the public. A formal complaint is being filed.
We gave an interview to the Flat Hat the same afternoon, trusting the reporter to tell the truth, even in the face of administrative efforts to cover up the illegal action. The article was botched, riddled with egregious factual inaccuracies. We contacted the Flat Hat with our concerns, listed below.
Despite their assertions:
1) We were not afforded the opportunity to present to the full Board.
2) Rather than being asked to wait due to a space issue, we were denied entry under the guise of a space issue.
3) Callisto does not automatically report to the Title IX coordinator. The survivor may report whenever they are ready. Further, Callisto is unique for its matching system, which gives survivors the option to allow the school to open an investigation if the same perpetrator is named by another survivor.
4) 16(IX)3 was not founded in response to the Office of Civil Rights investigation, but rather in response to ongoing issues with the College’s sexual violence policy.
5) The notification policy already covers assaults occurring on campus. We petition to expand the current policy to include off-campus assaults involving a student.
Unfortunately, Friday’s article and subsequent email correspondence made clear that the Flat Hat is either incapable or unwilling to report honestly about Thursday’s events or about 16(IX)3’s efforts. After reviewing our concerns, the Editor-in-Chief did not find “a substantial basis for issuing a correction.”
For that reason, we are telling our own story. Below, we have provided a timeline of Thursday’s events:
7:30 – 7:45 a.m.: Members of 16(IX)3 are denied entry into the Board of Visitors Audit & Compliance Meeting because of “space issues.” A high-level College administrator says there is not enough room, while simultaneously welcoming other members of the public into the meeting. Three members of 16(IX)3 go into the meeting while seven are barred.
7:45 a.m.: Board of Visitors Audit & Compliance Meeting begins.
8:00 – 8:45 a.m.: The excluded members go to the Brafferton to inquire about why they are barred from a public meeting. They speak to staff assistants to the Provost.
8:30 a.m.: The same College administrator offers the empty seats to members of 16(IX)3. Moments later, the open meeting ends. The administrator asserts that 16(IX)3 “cannot say [they] were denied entry.”
8:35 a.m.: Members meet with the Rector, discuss concerns and the petition.
8:40 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.: Members share a similar discussion with a Chair of a BOV committee. The Chair mentions being called in on short notice to quell the situation, and indicates that she did not receive the hardcopy packet 16(IX)3 provided the day prior. She requests a digital copy of the petition packet to read into the record at the afternoon session.
11 a.m.: 16(IX)3 emails all BOV members the petition packet.
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.: 16(IX)3 attends afternoon session. The Chair makes a brief comment about 16(IX)3, but does not read the petition into the record.
We ask that you, the College community, review the above facts. Think critically. Ask questions. It is easy to fall complacent. To take for granted centuries of tradition. To let student publications delude you. To let administrators scare you into silence.
Email 16(IX)3 at [email protected]
Editor’s Note: The Flat Hat does not have an attorney on staff, so the legal claims made in this column could not be verified. In the interests of free expression, The Flat Hat has decided to run this column as submitted.