‘IU must do better’: Shatter the Silence publishes letter criticizing university
Editor’s Note: This story makes mention of sexual violence.
After deciding to continue as a community group, members of Shatter the Silence said their decision not to be an IU student group helps them continue to support survivors of sexual assault and speak openly about their lives. thoughts, goals and intentions.
“We just want to continue to help survivors in any way we can,” said Grace Yoder, STS president and IU lead. “It’s just not one specific survivor, but we’re talking about all kinds of survivors with different backgrounds.”
STS supports survivors of sexual assault, letting them know that they are not alone and that there are resources to help them, said MegAnn Pearl, vice president of STS and senior IU.
The organization released its original open letter on Friday, taking a critical stance on the university’s treatment of current IU jazz student Chris Parker, who is the subject of a recent investigation by the ‘Indiana Daily Student. In the letter, the organization questioned why he was allowed to return to campus and said it supports survivors of sexual assault.
Related: [Dissonance in due process]
The organization reposted the letter on Sunday with revisions. The STS board said the changes were made to better protect themselves legally.
“Shatter the Silence calls on IU, IUPD and Jacobs School of Music to reassess this matter and remove Chris Parker and other known songwriters from the IU campus,” the letter reads.
IDS released the investigation, “Dissonance in due process,” on Thursday, which documented how Parker was allowed to return as a student after violating the terms of his suspension’s non-trespassing order. The suspension was the result of the university finding Parker responsible for a sexual assault in 2015 after a Title IX hearing.
After posting his first letter, Pearl said the STS board soon received an email from his adviser, who said he should have discussed the letter in a prior meeting. The organization took this letter shortly after.
During the meeting, Pearl said the board discussed their intentions regarding the letter. She said they were told the letter would have to be watered down to the point that it wasn’t clear it was talking about Parker and IU.
Since the letter targeted IU, Pearl said it created a conflict of interest and could eventually force the faculty member to resign as adviser. If STS makes more critical statements in the future, Pearl said they would likely continue to experience the same issue with another faculty member. To operate as an IU student group, an organization must have an academic advisor.
Both Pearl and Yoder said they know it wasn’t their instructing counsel’s fault for toning down the letter. They said they respected and loved their adviser and understood why things turned out the way they did.
Related: [IU’s denial of sexual assault record access violates public access laws, state says]
After consulting with STS founder and IU alumnus Ellie Johnson and discussing their options, STS decided to disaffiliate from the university and become a community group again. Pearl said this decision ensures that their opinions and actions will not run into this problem in the future.
“Just because this is our first situation doesn’t mean it will be our last,” Pearl said.
Pearl said the findings of this investigation were different from other sexual assault cases because there is evidence the university did not follow through on Parker’s readmission. Yoder said this investigation gave a voice to the women involved in the story.
Both said the results of Parker’s case as well as the response from Jacobs’ university and faculty were infuriating.
“When everyone says IU needs to do better, that they allow people, known authors, to be on campus, that’s the best example of that,” Pearl said. “There’s no way to excuse anything IU did in this situation.”
When they ask the university to do better, Yoder said it means they want the administration to stand up, change processes and create an environment where students feel safe.
Related: [‘We weren’t speaking to our family’: Jazz students express frustration after town hall]
In the coming days and weeks, Pearl said they plan to send a letter to IU administration and Jacobs to continue the conversation. She said now is the time to give momentum to this issue.
People can contact the organization through direct messages on their @stsbtown Instagram account.
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has been sexually harassed or abused.