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Ahead Of Hearing, Skidmore Students Speak Out Against Sexual Violence

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Ahead of a scheduled readmission hearing for a student sanctioned by Skidmore College for violating the campus’ policy on sexual misconduct, the national debate over campus sexual assault has found new voices among students in Saratoga Springs.

The issue of reporting campus sexual and gender-based misconduct has been at the forefront lately. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking private colleges and universities to adopt uniform assault reporting procedures. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is leading a charge nationally to combat campus sexual assault and violence.

Students at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs are now speaking out against a readmission hearing scheduled Friday for a student who was disciplined for sexual misconduct.

The student, who was not identified by the college, was suspended for a year. The student’s accuser, a student named Reina Kiefer, has shared her story with local media and is organizing a silent protest on campus. Keifer was unavailable for an interview Thursday. 

The Skidmore Student Government Association has sent an open letter to college leaders asking for a revision of the campus sexual misconduct policy, asking the college to adopt a zero-tolerance policy.

SGA President Addison Bennett said the letter is part of the SGA’s “It Happens Here” campaign.

“As a larger issue we want to make sure that students are most importantly talking about it and know about, and understand that the issue is not something that doesn’t happen at Skidmore, and secondly we want to show that this is a community that support survivors and doesn’t support the readmission of people who have been found responsible.”

The SGA held a tribute night for survivors on March 5th.

Skidmore student Kimmie Remus went before the City Council last week to ask the city for its support in combating sexual assault.

“19 percent of women and six percent of women will be sexually assaulted during their academic career. 80 to 90 percent of them will know their assailant and under 5 percent gets reported. Those are pretty terrifying statistics but we’re trying to really take a stance on this, and it’s pretty interesting to see the community at school as well as the administration really rally around this issue, which is pretty unprecedented.”

Skidmore College updated its sexual misconduct policy last August. Spokeswoman Andrea Wise said the college’s number one priority is the safety of its students.  

“This is a very serious issue that affects organizations throughout our country including colleges and universities, and Skidmore is not immune from that,” said Wise. “We do take this matter very seriously and we are devoted to combating instances of sexual and gender-based misconduct on our campus.”

Wise said the college works to support a climate of fair policies. She said she could not speak about the specifics of Friday’s hearing, but did address the policy.

“Skidmore’s policy does enable students who have been sanctioned to seek readmission to the college, and in the process of the readmission hearing, the college assesses the student’s readiness to return, and considers whether sanctions have been followed during the period of suspension, and also looks at how the student plans to reintegrate him or herself into the community,” said Wise. “Consideration is given as well  to the possible imposition of sanctions that will guide the behavior moving forward.”

Wise said the suggestions from student leaders have been sent to the college’s advisory council on sexual and gender-based misconduct. 

The SGA is continuing to push for change, and is sending a message to the Administrative Hearing Board. Again, Addison Bennett.

“They must consider expulsion, and if they do not expel, they have to write up a written rationale for it to explain what their thinking was. So basically, the intention of that is to reflect that our community standards don’t accept sexual offenders on campus. If the board truly feels in sort of individual cases that someone can be rehabilitated or if the offense was somewhat minor, then maybe there’s a place for them here. When it comes to violent or forceful sexual assaults, I really don’t think that returning here should be an option,” said Bennett.

The silent protest is scheduled to begin in conjunction with the Administrative Hearing Friday at 1 p.m.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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