Dean McLoughlin Should Be Ashamed

Is our community at Colgate safe and healthy? What are the threats ultimately responsible for harming our student body? Are the students at fault for failing to create a safe environment? 

If you read Vice President and Dean of the College Dean McLoughlin’s latest email warning student organizations against using internal lists to unfairly exclude certain students, you would be led to believe that, yes, the community is unsafe. But not because of the inability of the school to prevent and address harm to the student body, such as sexual assault and violence, but because of those in student organizations — which are allegedly trying to fill a hole left by the administration. You would be misled into believing that the student body’s exercise of free discourse and freedom of association through these apparent “internal lists” is responsible for harming our community — when the converse is taking place in reality, insofar that it is the toxic environment which is encouraging students to take actions into their own hands. 

The administration’s utter deafness when it denies responsibility in favor of reflexive defensiveness on the state of our community is a concession of their defeat. Instead of spending so much time and effort harassing student organizations’ free discourse, and with whom they choose to associate, maybe the school could take responsibility and reflect on their own inability to properly police and deter student misconduct.

By sending that email, McLoughlin revealed that the administration isn’t interested in holding itself accountable; the willful choice was made to not even address the hard question of why so many students have so little faith in official channels in the first place. 

When asked why students may be using internal lists, sophomore Mariama Lemon responded curtly. 

“I think students may be using lists as a means to protect themselves. Too often, people know and have seen the violence that happens on campus and try to go through the proper channels without any fruition.”

Take the issue of sexual violence on campus, something that McLoughlin and the administration have failed to fruitfully address, as an example of why so many students feel that the school’s safety mechanisms are inadequate. Data collected from 2019 Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Sexual Assault Climate Survey revealed just how deep this issue goes. Among students who responded, 14.9% reported that they had been sexually assaulted, and 6.6% reported suspicion that they were sexually assaulted during their time at Colgate. 

The same data indicated that many simply do not believe the school would take meaningful action if they were to report a sexual assault to a Colgate official. When the survey asked if they believed that campus officials would conduct a careful investigation in order to determine what happened, a little less than half of the responders either agreed or strongly agreed that they would — the rest either disagreed, disagreed strongly, or neither agreed nor disagreed. Fewer students agreed or strongly agreed that campus officials would take action against the offender when asked; only 29.2% of responders agreed; the majority of the survey participants either disagreed or strongly disagreed that the school would take action. 

Considering the epidemic of this form of violence alone, it makes sense why there could be coordination among the student body to try to mitigate the crisis — one which the administration is ultimately responsible for failing to deter and prevent. McLoughlin unclearly accusing organizations of wrongful conduct for trying to protect their members, and not even trying to address why they feel the need to do so on this campus, erodes the trust that the student body holds in the administration’s efforts to tackle sexual assault. 

Attacking discourse among students trying to protect themselves makes Colgate more dangerous. It infringes upon the two most basic freedoms that students should have: our ability to engage in spoken or written discourse amongst each other in order to safeguard our communities; and our freedom to associate with whom we feel safe and comfortable. I believe that sowing doubt in the honesty of our student organizations and vaguely alleging abuses of power — without providing a shred of evidence — only distracts from the violence that the school itself fails to stop. 

Dean McLoughlin should feel ashamed for sending out such a callous email. And he should be ashamed that students feel the urgency to do his job for him.