Indiana Daily Student

‘IU needs to do better’: Shatter the Silence posts letter critical of the university

<p>IU students hold a sign that reads “Shatter the Silence” on Aug. 18, 2018, in front of fraternity houses on East Third Street. Shatter the Silence will now operate as a community organization instead of as a student organization.</p>

IU students hold a sign that reads “Shatter the Silence” on Aug. 18, 2018, in front of fraternity houses on East Third Street. Shatter the Silence will now operate as a community organization instead of as a student organization.

Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of sexual violence.

After deciding to continue as a community group, Shatter the Silence members said their decision to not be an IU student group helps them to continue supporting survivors of sexual assault and speak openly about their thoughts, goals and intentions.

“We just want to basically keep helping survivors in the ways that we can,” STS President and IU senior Grace Yoder said. “That'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 they are not alone and there are resources to help them, MegAnn Pearl, STS vice president and IU senior, said. 

The organization posted their original open letter Friday, taking a critical stance on how the university dealt with current IU jazz student Chris Parker, the subject of a recent Indiana Daily Student investigation. In the letter, the organization asked why he was allowed back to campus and said they stand with survivors of sexual assault. 

Related: [Dissonance in due process]

The organization reposted the letter Sunday with revisions. STS executive board said these changes were made to best protect themselves legally. 

“Shatter the Silence is calling upon IU, IUPD, and Jacobs School of Music to re-evaluate this case and remove Chris Parker and other known perpetrators from IU’s campus,” the letter said. 

The IDS published the investigation, “Dissonance in due process,” Thursday, which documented how Parker was allowed back as a student after he violated the terms of his suspension’s no- trespass order. The suspension was the result of the university finding Parker responsible for a 2015 sexual assault after a Title IX hearing process. 

After posting their first letter, Pearl said the STS executive board quickly received an email from their advisor, who said they should have talked through the letter in a meeting beforehand. The organization took that letter down shortly after. 

During the meeting, Pearl said the executive board spoke about their intentions for the letter. She said they were made aware that the letter would need to be watered down to the point where it was unclear it was talking about Parker and IU. 

Since the letter targeted IU, Pearl said it created a conflict of interest and could possibly force the faculty member to step down as their advisor. If STS makes more critical statements in the future, Pearl said they would likely continue to run into the same problem with a different faculty member advisor. To function as an IU student group, an organization needs to have a faculty advisor. 

Pearl and Yoder both said they knew it was not their advisor’s fault for the instruction to tone down the letter. They said they respect and love their advisor and understand why things played out the way they did. 

Related: [IU’s denial of sexual assault record access violates public access laws, state says]

After consulting with Ellie Johnson, STS founder and IU alumna, and talking over their options, STS decided to disaffiliate from the university and revert back to being a community group. Pearl said this decision ensures their opinions and actions would not run into this problem in the future.

“Just because this is our first situation does not mean this is going to be the last,” Pearl said.

Pearl said this investigation’s findings feel different from other sexual assault cases because it is documented that the university did not follow their word when readmitting Parker. Yoder said this investigation gave the women involved in the story a voice.

Both said the results of Parker’s case as well as the university and Jacobs’ faculty’s response were infuriating.

“When everyone says that IU needs to do better, that they are allowing people, known perpetrators, to be on campus, this is the prime example of that,” Pearl said. “There's no way to excuse anything that IU has done in this situation.”

When they ask for 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 next few days and weeks, Pearl said they plan to send a letter to IU administration and Jacobs to continue a conversation. She said now is the time to ensure momentum for this issue. 

People can reach out to the organization through direct messages to their Instagram @stsbtown.

A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.

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