Letter To The Editor

Title IX issues should be on prospective students’ radar

By Hannah Merrow '18 April 25, 2018

Dear Potential Students:

Congratulations on being accepted to RPI! Your academic achievements thus far are certainly exceptional, and I am sure that your success makes the process of choosing a college a difficult one. That being said, if you are a woman and are considering RPI, I urge you to consider your options.

This is not a warning about the rigor of the courses, the crazy New York weather, or even the ratio. This is a warning about archaic practices in the realm of sexual misconduct on a college campus. This is a warning that the odds are stacked against you if you choose to report a sexual assault at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This is a warning that, if you choose RPI and have the unfortunate circumstance requiring that you report a Title IX offense, you will likely not succeed.

Even when you report an incident of sexual misconduct, the resources made available to you are scarce. The counseling center does not have enough appointments for the people seeking them, and the protections put in place to make the complainant feel safer are easily broken. Victims have been known to suffer in clubs with their attackers because there would be no official decision made on removing either party from the club or even actions taken to ensure the safety of a victim during the investigation. 

Now that my time at RPI has come to an end, I wish that I had been at a school that placed more importance on my safety and well-being. Out of my four closest friends, three of us have experienced sexual assault and/or harassment while being on this campus. Only one of us had a reasonable experience with the Title IX office, and it was due to the rare occurrence of a witness. The other two cases took over six months to complete, and the outcomes were skewed towards the perpetrator. I could be called biased—as these three women are my close friends—but, after knowing the intimate details of these cases and the experiences of others on campus, RPI should have had no other options besides finding fault in the respondents’ actions. 

My friends are not alone in their injustice. The Title IX reporting process has been questioned by many on campus, leading to questions at the president’s semesterly town meeting and an investigation from the Office of Civil Rights. RPI’s own Institute council, when asked about the open Office of Civil Rights investigations—that’s right, multiple investigations—at the town meeting last month, said that the cases being brought forth don’t matter. The vice president of human resources made odd comments about the ongoing Title IX investigation at that same town hall, stating that “[RPI] took action against the individual who perpetrated that act; however, the complainant was not satisfied with that, so I feel good that the university did what it needed to do in this regard.” He went on to dismiss the concerns brought forth by the complainant regarding a lack of response by the Institute, ignored the Office of Civil Rights investigation, and stated “I think it was very prudent what we did, and I’m pleased we took the correct action.”

Rensselaer’s officials are actively involved in victim blaming, isolating the multitude of complainants on campus. Rensselaer continuously displays no respect or care for the students on this campus that are dealing with sensitive matters covered under Title IX.

I urge you to carefully consider your choices and go to a school that listens to you and handles the Title IX process with fairness, respect, and dignity. Rensselaer is not alone in it’s horrendous Title IX process. Consider a school not only looking out for your future self, but also your future roomates, classmates, and friends. Consider your values and the realities of college campuses across the nation. Please, consider your options.

Hannah Merrow
Alumni Vice President
Class of 2018