The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Speaking up

Hannah+Shaw+Tweet
Photo by via Twitter
Hannah Shaw Tweet

Texas A&M University is facing backlash regarding its sexual misconduct investigation procedures after survivors of sexual assault took to social media last week to voice concerns about the way the university handles sexual assault investigations.
Hannah Shaw, biomedical sciences senior, tweeted a screenshot of an email from Senior Associate Athletic Director Lori Williams on June 7, in which Williams writes that she regrets Shaw’s “displeasure with the perceived impact” about her reported rapist being allowed back on the university swim team. Since then, the tweet has received over 38 thousand likes and attention from national media outlets. Sexual assault survivors are joining Shaw by telling their stories of sexual assault and the university’s investigation process.
According to the conduct letter Shaw posted on Twitter, her reported perpetrator was found responsible of sexual abuse and received a suspension from A&M for the fall 2016 semester, conduct probation for one semester upon re-enrollment and a mandatory meeting with a staff member from the Consensual Language, Education, Awareness and Relationships (CLEAR) office. He swam on the Texas A&M men’s swim team in 2017-2018.
The A&M Athletics department and Title IX coordinator denied a request for comment. The university’s statement released on June 11 said sanctions are chosen on a case-by-case basis and outlined the investigation process guidelines.
“Students found responsible for sexual misconduct are given sanctions, which may include suspension and/or dismissal,” the statement said. “Usually students who are suspended return on a probationary status and have additional requirements to perform. If performed then student privileges are reinstated unless of course further misconduct occurs.”
Meghan Romere, Class of 2018, said the sanctions in sexual assault cases are often too light, as she found in her own case’s investigation.
“Sexual assault investigations at A&M are honestly kind of a joke,” Romere said. “They’re going to slap you on the wrist and say, ‘Now don’t rape anybody again,’ and then let you back on campus.”
During a tutoring session in the fall of 2016, an athlete Romere was teaching exposed himself to her. She told her supervisor, who told her the same thing happened to another tutor. A report was filed with the student conduct board which led to a student conduct panel that found the reported perpetrator not responsible.
“They said that they believed that he had exposed himself to me and the other tutor, but that they could not find him responsible for those actions because he was experiencing jock itch allegedly, and that he could not control his scratching in this tutoring session,” Romere said. “They apologized that I was offended and basically just told me to suck it up.”
After an unsuccessful first panel, Romere won an appeal. The day she appeared for a second panel, the student affairs office told her to wait while they were on the phone with general counsel. Three hours later, they told her to go home because the charges had been changed and she was now simply a witness, not a victim.
“It was heartbreaking, especially coming from a university that has been a huge part of my life,” Romere said. “I’m a fourth-gen Aggie and Texas A&M was part of my identity. They basically were like, ‘We don’t care about you. Sorry, go home,’ which sucks.”
Sydney Whigam, Class of 2017, said she was treated fairly by university officials during her sexual assault case investigation, in which her perpetrator was found responsible for 13 of 15 counts of assault and expelled.
“I was thankful and rejoicing that A&M had my back,” Whigam said. “I really wasn’t met with much resistance and A&M 110 percent had my back and listened to what I had to say.”
Whigam said she is disappointed to hear that other survivors’ reported perpetrators are not given fair sanctions. She called this an inconsistency on the university’s part.
“When all these stories came out, I felt really guilty,” Whigam said. “I wanted to call them and say, ‘Let him back in school. Like if you’re going to let all of these other girls walk in fear every day, why didn’t you pick me? Why was I the one that got justice when you’re not going to play it fair across the board?’ As someone who’s gone through one of the most horrific things, I shouldn’t carry that guilt. I shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Oh why me? Why did I get justice?”
Abbie Hillis, Class of 2012, is a survivor who immediately wanted to help others when she began hearing their stories. She created the private Facebook group, #MeTooTAMU to help encourage survivors share their stories and find strength in numbers.
“Our goal is not to destroy the university, but more so to just figure out what needs to change and figure out what to do to make that change happen so this doesn’t happen anymore,” Hillis said. “The motive behind this is to demand change and to hold the university accountable for what it stands for. They hold all of us to a standard that they need to hold themselves to.”
For information on reporting sexual assault or counseling, visit the survivor resource guide at studentlife.tamu.edu/sas.resourceguide.

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