Students at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs Friday gathered to protest a readmission hearing for a student suspended for sexual misconduct and to support victims of sexual violence.
Inside an academic building on the Skidmore campus, hundreds gathered in support of sophomore Reina Kiefer.
Kiefer, the victim of a sexual assault, initially started a Facebook event calling on her friends to hold a silent protest for other victims after she learned that her attacker, whose name has not been released and is currently under a one-year suspension, would be allowed a readmission hearing.
Kiefer made headlines after more than a thousand signed up to support her cause. On Friday, her supporters lined up wearing t-shirts, holding signs, and standing together.
Senior Alex Chernin waited in line for one of the green shirts that read “Don’t Graduate Rapists.”
“I am a little disappointed in Skidmore today and I wanted to show that with my fellow students and hopefully make some sort of a change.”
Senior Brandon Dire said he wanted to show a strong stance against campus sexual assault and bring attention to the issue.
“There are always green slips of paper that go on doors around campus that warn people that something happened, and then nothing else happens. We don’t hear anything else, and hopefully things start changing and people are able to report and not know that their rapist can come back next year.”
Senior Emma Cushing, a friend of Kiefer’s who helped organize the protest, said she was also a victim of sexual assault.
“You can connect with other people about it, but you’re always connecting in tragedy. You’re always connecting in the fact that you have this very personal moment that’s happened to you that no one else ever will truly understand, even if they’ve had similar end results with your emotions and feeling torn up and lost and whatever else comes with the experience.”
Students filled out note cards with their thoughts and posted them on large green banners.
Kiefer stood beside her messages of support, and said she couldn’t have stepped forward without the backing of friends and family.
“You know, people have said to me, ‘Wow, I could never do what you’re doing.’ I could never do what I’m doing! I’m only doing it because I got angry enough, and something mattered enough to do it. I mean this is how change starts.”
Kiefer’s attorney, James Marsh, remarked on the attacker’s one-year suspension.
“In reality, you know, he didn’t miss a year. He missed time at Skidmore, but beyond that, his studies were not significantly interrupted. And I find that that’s very unusual.”
Skidmore last updated its sexual and gender-based misconduct policy in August.
Skidmore’s Student Government Association recently sent a letter to school leaders asking the college to adopt a zero-tolerance policy, which Kiefer thinks would take away the voice of the victim.
“In my case I would love to hear the day my assailant was expelled, but for other victims…that’s not what their healing process needs.”
As the building grew quiet, Kiefer embraced her friends and posted her own note to the green banner that said “Thank you ALL!”
She then walked down the hallway to the readmission hearing.
College spokeswoman Andrea Wise said safety for its students is Skidmore’s greatest concern.
“Skidmore is not immune, we take this matter very seriously. We’ve devoted substantial resources to prevention of misconduct and to remedies when we hear reports of misconduct. Student safety is our primary concern, as well as policies that are considered fundamentally fair.”
Wise said the college continues to seek input and improve. A community forum on Skidmore’s sexual and gender-based misconduct policies is scheduled for March 24th. It was not immediately clear when the hearing board would decide on whether the student will be readmitted.