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Emerson to review sexual assault policies after students campaign for change

Posted by Your Town  March 14, 2013 05:03 PM

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After students at Emerson launched a social media and letter writing campaign questioning the college’s response to sexual assault incidents, administration officials announced last week that they plan to review the college’s policies on sexual assault.

On March 4, President Lee Pelton wrote in a message to the Emerson community that several students had “raised concerns on social media and through an organized letter-writing campaign addressed to me and others about the College’s response to a specific alleged sexual assault that took place off campus last October” as well as “the College’s response to incidents of sexual assault in general.”

“I have requested the office of the Dean of Students to review our current sexual assault support programs and adjudication process to ensure that each is functioning effectively on behalf of our students and meeting the very high expectations of excellence we hold for all College programs,” he wrote, adding that the “College supports the prosecution of sexual assailants to the fullest extent of the law, and as expressed in our student code of conduct.”

The Emerson student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon, interviewed the students who created the Facebook group, “Emerson Students Stepping Up Against Sexual Assault." The creators, who were granted anonymity by the Beacon, said they were inspired to start the group in part because of their personal experiences with sexual assault.

Pelton wrote in the letter that in October, there were reports that an Emerson student had been sexually assaulted off-campus by a non-Emerson student. The Emerson College Police Department helped the student report the incident to the police department where the alleged assault took place, and that department conducted an investigation.

“The College offered and continues to offer support and counseling for the Emerson student,” Pelton wrote.

Pelton said that additional information related to that incident have been recently brought forward, and the college has followed up on these allegations.

“The College followed up on the information presented to us, and active internal and external investigations are ongoing,” he said.

In addition to offering counseling to students, Emerson has a Sexual Assault Response Team, which is led by the Dean of Students and includes members of the Emerson College Police Department, the Center for Health and Wellness, the Counseling Center, the Department of Housing and Residence Life, the Office of the General Counsel, and Human Resources.

Pelton also asked that students who are victims of sexual assault to seek help from the college.

“Sadly, sexual assault occurs too frequently on American college campuses and we recognize that such incidents are under reported for a variety of reasons,” he wrote. “Therefore, we encourage any student who has been assaulted to come forward immediately and report the incident to the College and to the appropriate police department.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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