ODRs: Campus Office Designed for Resignation

There is so much going on in this world. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID. I am also simultaneously struggling to do justice to the women who have reached out to me to describe their experiences with campus sexual assault and harassment, and the the Offices of Dispute Resolution to which they are remanded. ODR? Sounds neutral and perhaps promising. Not so fast. I have had two women relate their experiences. One found the experience of meeting with ODR staff so traumatic that she withdrew her complaint due to suicidal ideation. The ODR staffed “grilled” her in an adversarial manner that was so abrasive that she felt re-violated and withdrew her complaint. The second woman was asked about her sexual history—years prior to her complaint about a sexually harassing professor — and was so ill afterwards that she withdrew her complaint to focus on her health and that of her husband. Will gender justice be delayed by COVID? We know that rates of interpersonal and domestic violence have spiked; has the remote learning environment ironically meant a reprieve from professorial harassment because students are off-site? If recovery from COVID means “rebuilding better,” then perhaps we can address the issue of campus sexual assault and harassment as part of a broader spectrum of gender-based violence that grinds female students down…and out. So many #missingwomen in our classes, on our campuses, in the people we count as colleagues in our universities.

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