Last Thursday, the campus received an email from President Stanley with the subject “Know Your Rights: Discrimination and Sexual Violence Required Training.” In the email, Stanley discusses Stony Brook’s firm commitment to a discrimination free campus, and that all students must complete a mandatory online training exercise by Oct. 17.
While all of this sounds well and good, the timing of the email could not have come at a more inappropriate time. Just one day prior, Stanley sent out another e-mail lauding the work and promotion of Dexter Bailey to Senior Vice President of University Advancement, whose job is fundamentally to solicit and raise funds for the University via donations and gifts and to generally make the university look better.
As many students are aware, Stony Brook University is one of 76 colleges across the nation under investigation by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over its handling of sexual violence cases on campus.
While asking students to take a Title IX and sexual violence course is not an offensive measure by any means (and having already completed the training, it does do a good job of informing students of their rights and appropriate community conduct), it feels very much like a cop-out for the university in handling their own issues with addressing sexual violence complaints.
Nothing in this message or the last message from the university in January concerning sexual violence on campus, outlines any steps that the university has or will take to assure that sexual violence claims are treated with the proper attention and care that is demanded by the United States Department of Education and campus community.
In addition, to send out this message less than 24 hours after sending a message discussing how furthering the image of the university helps us all screams, “Look at us, we’re taking care of the issue by pawning off our responsibility on to the students and pretending to deal with the issue.”
It’s not only insensitive, but insulting that the university refuses to address its own faults and outline steps towards a safer campus for students.
For a university so concerned with its own image, to make such a blunder is a serious misstep for its communications department. When unnecessary emails are being sent lauding the promotion of the Stony Brook money-maker and image consultant, while more pertinent issues affecting the campus community get swept under the rug, it sends a strong message about where this university’s priorities lie.