Students, alumni hold press conference on federal complaints


Author: Emily Shugerman & Rachel Stober |Rachel Stober |Emily Shugerman

Six Occidental students and alumni, along with Professor Caroline Heldman, held a press conference this morning at the law offices of attorney Gloria Allred where they discussed the filing of a complaint against the college with the U.S. Department of Education. The group filed a Clery Act complaint on April 1 and a Title IX complaint with the Office Of Civil Rights this morning.

Allred was first to speak at the conference and explained the reasons behind these complaints against the college.

“The Title IX complaint sets forth details of rape, sexual assault and sexual batteries that occurred at Occidental and the ways in which Occidental, a college which President Obama once attended, has failed miserably at abiding by federal law, which guarantees each and every student the right to an education free from violations of their human and civil rights,” Allred said.

Allred’s explanation was followed by the testimony of six Occidental students and alumni, all of whom alleged that they had been sexually assaulted by another student during their time at Occidental. The women also claimed that the school had handled their cases inappropriately with complaints of light sentencing for students found guilty of sexual assault, frequent overturn of sentences on appeal and general indifference toward survivors.

“Time and time again the school has failed to take strong action against the perpetrators,” Allred said. “It has been open season on the female students at Occidental. I wish to let Occidental know that it will be open season on Occidental in our criticisms of them until they do their job, until they stop the rapes and sexual assaults.”

The college responded quickly to the press conference, sending an email alert to parents and posting a statement on the Occidental website. The statement highlights steps the college has recently taken to improve its sexual assault policy and procedure, while asserting that the process is one of ongoing improvement.

“Sexual assault on college campuses is a nationwide problem, from which Occidental College regrettably is not exempt,” the statement reads. “We take this issue exceptionally seriously and will not tolerate sexual misconduct.”

Some of the students involved in the Title IX complaint echoed this sentiment that sexual assault is a nationwide problem. Seniors Carly Mee and Audrey Logan explained that the case was not meant to affect change solely at Occidental, but to raise awareness of the issue at colleges and universities nationwide.

“The goal of this event is to kind of gain visibility in terms of not just survivors at Oxy but survivors overall,” senior Carly Mee said of the press conference. “I think there’s the overwhelming silencing culture that exists at Oxy… that exists at many other colleges, and we’re hoping to show that victims and survivors can stand up, and they can demand the same sort of respect that they’ve been denied this whole time.”

According to several students present at the conference, contact with Allred was initiated by two current Occidental students through an online submission form on the attorney’s website. Allred then reached out to the two students and the others listed in the complaint, after reviewing their submission.

“[Allred’s offices] contacted us,” Logan said. “They reached out to us and started meeting with us and said, ‘We think a bunch of you, multiple of you, have really strong cases, and you’ve been severely mistreated and we want to help.’”

Logan and several of the other complainants expressed a desire to continue their work on reforming sexual assault policy and process at Occidental, even if it meant going through larger and more public channels.

“When [the college is] constantly trying to silence survivors… and keep it going long enough that you think will be burnout, then it’s time for people to know that that’s not going to happen, and we are not going away,” Logan said.

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