Around 200 students stood in solidarity in front of Sheen Auditorium on Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020 before a faculty meeting at 1:40 p.m. In solemn silence, students held various signs, wore body paint, make-up and outfits to represent their cause against the administration’s alleged mishandling of Title IX cases. 

“I'm hoping that the faculty, especially at the administrative level, really understands that we're serious about this,” Sydney Luks, junior and co-organizer of the protest, said. “That we're not going to be taking this lightly anymore and that we're aware of their mishandling, and their silencing of our voices and we're sick of it.”

Sexual Assault

From left to right, juniors Ally Coughlan, Julia Groeber, Annaliese Schrandt, and Emma Mead watch as faculty passed by. "I was moved. I felt emotional," Coughlan said.

Luks along with juniors Shelby Scott and Kristi Stari arranged the silent protest, with the permission of Campus Safety, through social media and emails to the student body. 

A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times detailed a lawsuit against Eckerd College over the alleged mishandling of a case involving former Professor of Marine Science and Chemistry David Hastings “fondling himself” in front of a former student. 

The lawsuit detailed Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison’s alleged words to the student to not report the case, which spurred this action among the students. 

Protestor

Sophomore L Garcia sits with his head down in the Sheen Courtyard. Students sat in silence for 40 minutes before the faculty meeting in Sheen Auditorium. 

According to an email to students sent by Scott, the main purpose of the protest was to show the dissatisfaction with Eckerd’s administration’s handling of Title IX cases, not just the one detailed in the Tampa Bay Times article. Scott said the protest’s goal was to create a candid conversation with Eckerd’s faculty about Title IX as a whole.

“We already have a problem with rape culture on this campus,” senior Amanda Scribner said, “and for a school official to know about it and actively discourage somebody from reporting an incident that happened, I can’t even describe how angry that made me.”

Protestor sign

Junior Quinn Nilon raises his message for faculty to see. Following the protest, students laid their signs outside of Sheen Auditorium for faculty to see as they left the meeting.

Faculty and staff had various reactions as they walked by the group of students. Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Chaplain Doug McMahon passed in front of the protestors placing his hand on his chest and mouthing “thank you.” He then sat with the students until the meeting began.

“At the student protest today, I felt the pain among the students and the power of the protest, as they held signs and stood silently as the faculty arrived at the faculty meeting,” McMahon said. “As a chaplain, I am eager to be a part of the larger conversation on campus with students, staff and faculty about how to move forward as a community in ways that ensure that no one feels silenced. Everyone is prepared for an ongoing conversation to address student concerns.”

According to Liza Conrad, associate professor of biology, the faculty meeting’s main purpose was to discuss the general Title IX process and how it relates to Eckerd’s faculty. President Donald Eastman and Harrison spoke to the faculty about their role in the Title IX process and their status as mandatory reporters. 

Title IX is a part of the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Education. It protects people from sex or gender-based violence in schools that receive federal funding. Eckerd’s Title IX Office is responsible for ensuring gender equality and that Eckerd is safe from sexual misconduct outlined in the Equal Opportunity, Harrassment, and Nondiscrimination policy.

The lawsuit about former Eckerd professor Hastings was not discussed in the meeting, according to Conrad. There was no discussion about the protest that took place outside as the faculty walked in. 

“I think it's important that students use their voices to be heard and I think it's important that they communicate with administration, and I’m happy to see students doing that. I would like to encourage students overall to just talk to their professors and administration at the college. I think everyone has very good intentions to make sure that our students are heard and that we can address their issues,” Conrad said. 

Sexual Assault Protest

First-year Liliana Sandberg, junior Austin Howard and sophomore Lauren Blejski lean on the wall at the front of the crowd. Howard's sign reads, "EMBRACE Your Voice Be an Agent for CHANGE!"

ECOS President Bailey Cross attended part of the protest and said she supports students’ right to public protest. Alumni also attended. 

“I and a lot of other people would like to see a more strict attitude in the Title IX office towards not only taking care of student offenses but also faculty offenses and not trying to sweep it under the rug to maintain its reputation,” alumnus Nate Klebe said.

Protestors

First-year Olivia Barkley, and seniors Gwen Everhart, Isha Joseph and Jasmine Oakley stand in silence. Around 200 protestors attended.

News Editor

Gabrielle is a senior and a double major in creative writing and human development. She loves music and frequents concert venues.

Science Editor

Celina is a junior majoring in marine science with minors in journalism, Spanish and chemistry. She is an avid turtle lover, her favorite pastime being helping turtles cross the road and making sure they have a safe place to nest.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.