WESTFIELD- More than a dozen demonstrators returned to the Westfield State University campus Monday afternoon for the second week to protest what they have perceived as inaction by the school administration in dealing with a student who sent what they call disturbing messages to a woman over a dating app.
The protesters expressed disappointment with the administration, which did not send anyone to represent the school and engage with the protesters. Chief of Staff Tricia Oliver had been present the previous week, engaging with the protesters on behalf of the administration.
Protest organizer Krystle Melanson said that they now have eight demands of the administration to ensure that such incidents cannot happen and that they are dealt with properly when they do.
The eight demands are as follows: 1. They want WSU President Ramon S. Torrecilha to step down immediately so that incoming interim President Roy H. Saigo can get to work early. 2. They want more transparency by WSU when they are conducting investigations such as the one in question. 3. The immediate interim suspension of the student who is alleged to have sent threatening messages to a woman over Tinder. 4. Further policy to be put in place to prevent predators from feeling welcome at WSU. 5. The accused student’s eventual expulsion from WSU as a final punishment. 6. To add more prevention programs to educate students about sexual assault, consent, and racial discrimination. 7. Create an independent committee to review the sexual assault stories of past and present students and to update school policies accordingly. 8. To add a mental health professional who is not hired by the school to speak with students who are victims of such crimes.
The protests were started after Tinder messages between the student and an unidentified woman were leaked on social media. In the messages, the two appeared to have been arguing about the role of police in America.
In the screenshots, Clayton is seen saying, “cops are the reason [you’re] not raped every day.”
When the woman responded that his statement had made no sense, he followed up by saying, “Who’s to stop someone like me from raping [you] without the cops,” said the student, “You? What would you do if I were to metaphorically rape you?” he wrote.
The protesters, as well as people commenting on the social media posts pointed out that rapes are rarely, if ever, stopped by police in progress.
Several of the protesters, some of whom had graduated from WSU already, spoke about their own stories with rape and sexual assault on campus. All of those who talked about their experiences said that little to nothing was done by WSU officials to remedy the situation. In some cases the students claimed that they were blamed by WSU officials for getting assaulted in the first place.
The protesters also decried an article written by President Torrecilha that was published in local news publications, including The Westfield News. They called the article, which was titled, “Westfield State built on foundation of inclusivity“, completely tone deaf, as it ran after last week’s protest, but did not address the WSU protests or the incidents from which they stemmed.
Protester Alex Lavalley read a list of incidents of racism that had occurred between September, 2017 and November 2018 as reported by the WSU Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT). He pointed out that the list of incidents inexplicably stops after Nov. 2018, even though BIRT is required to publicly report all such incidents.
During the protest, Melanson sent an email to Oliver inquiring about the administration’s absence from the protest. Shortly after, Oliver sent a response to Melanson, which Melanson read aloud.
“Thank you for your email, and thank you for the opportunity to listen to your viewpoints at last week’s protest. Westfield State University does not have any further information beyond what I provided last week to share at this time. University leadership will not be at today’s event,” said Oliver’s email.
On June 22, when Oliver was present, she repeatedly cited the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as the reason she could not give much information about the ongoing investigation into Clayton’s messages.
Melanson claims that Section 99.36 of FERPA allows for the administration to provide more information than they have so far.
The protesters all said they would return to the campus green again next Monday to continue their protest.