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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Letter to the editor: An Elegy for Feminist Justice at Grinnell

While a part of Dissenting Voices (DV), I had the honor of experiencing radical feminist praxis that has led to direct and effective change. DV has accomplished many things for the campus community, including bringing SANE nurses to GRMH, more frequent Clery reports, banning of responsible perpetrators from student safety jobs, directing Grinnell’s issue to national attention through the Huffington Post[1], and most importantly, the opening of an official Title IX Complaint to the Office of Civil Rights[2].

Last year, the complaint was closed by OCR “based on the settlement agreement and the revisions to the Title IX policy and procedures.”[3] In other words, students withdrew their complaint and the College revised their Title IX policy that applied to the students’ claims. While the OCR is no longer investigating this complaint, it set an important precedent at Grinnell that rendered visible the possibility of legal action against parties responsible for sexual discrimination, and the weight that legal action can have on changing policies and procedures.

Thanks to the labor of many feminists in the national campus anti-rape movement, there are now easily accessible resources for survivors’ legal rights (like & Survivors and activists around the nation are filing complaints to the OCR and even filing private suits against gender and sex discrimination. Title IX protects equal access to education. It “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity operated by a recipient of Federal financial assistance. Title IX also prohibits retaliation for certain protected activities.”[4]

A few key rights under Title IX:

  • You have the right to live and learn in environments free from your assailant (dorms, classrooms, work, dining hall, etc.)
  • Survivors are entitled to cost-free accommodations (counseling, tutoring, changes to housing, etc.)
  • You do not need to suffer the financial burden of your school’s mistakes. If the school fails to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate violence and prevent its recurrence, they may be required to reimburse lost tuition and related expenses

The importance of Title IX is that it addresses both the personal and professional effects of sexual violence on campus. It is not just about the rapists and the horrifying violences they enact on their peers – it’s about the grounds and structures that allow these violences to occur and the impact on survivors’ place in the public sphere. Feminist theorists such as Susan Brownmiller have re-theorized sexual violence as a crime of power, not a crime of passion[5]. Sexual violence has been used historically to control and dominate women’s bodies to reinforce women’s place as one in the private and domestic sphere[6]. Sexual violence is a tool of terror utilized by the oppressor to kill the oppressed’s access to public space. This is why it is important to understand campus rape as an equal access issue and why administrators need to act fast to eliminate any barriers to a survivor’s access to education.

Dissenting Voices have received critique from the administration for our protests against policies and practices from our Title IX office.  The reason why feminist activists have critiqued the administration is because our campus does not provide an equal access campus. It is not equal access when a countless number of serial rapists graduate while their peers affected by their violence are on medical leave. In May 2017, I walked Commencement stage with a banner that read: “We are Graduating with Two Serial Rapists,” only to learn two days later that number should have actually been five. It is not equal access when survivors have to share the three-block radius of campus with their perpetrators, even with no-contact orders. It is not equal access when students are almost never notified (as required by the Clery Act) when their peer commits a sexual crime against another peer.

Dissenting Voices has been effective because of the recognition of the College’s investment in its image. We’ve hit them where it hurts: their public identity and their money. We’ve held actions at parent’s weekend, prospective student weekends, created websites that establish institutional memory of the many times that the institution has failed its students, and continue to deconstruct the image that the College spends so much money to build. We have held dis-orientation events, installed anti-rape protest art, held Take Back the Night events, and provided resources to survivors on campus.

DV has persisted through countless retaliation tactics, including the College’s hiring of Pepper Hamilton, a firm notorious for its retaliation against survivors and activists and in helping institutions maintain their image more than helping them create a discriminatory-free campus[7]. Part of the reason why feminist activism can persist is the institutional memory that we leave behind. When we trace the discourse around rape and Title IX at Grinnell, there is a clear reason why there is no trust between students and administration – it’s because we see a clear history of the countless retaliation tactics enacted by the administration, and disconnects between survivor stories and statements made by the administration. This is not a personal attack on any single member of the administration, but a demystification of the motivations with which administrative decisions are made. The bureaucratic structure of Grinnell’s administration makes it people’s jobs to prioritize liabilities and image over protecting survivors.

Administrators – If you want students to trust you, fire Pepper Hamilton, hire a full-time Title IX coordinator, provide trauma-informed counseling or transportation to such counseling, make sure the Title IX adjudication process is speedy and transparent, create a GWSS center to make space for conversations and education… I could go on since there is so much that administrators can act on to provide a more safe and equitable campus. Listen to students’ concerns and demands and do whatever you can in your power to help these aims and goals happen. Actually read the Dissenting Voices aims and goals[8]–it was compiled with weeks and months of research and input from survivors. In the end, what we should be aiming for are effective and ethical policies and practices that support survivors and end rape on campus.

Survivors – know that you have much more support and resources than you may realize, on and off campus. The law is on your side and there are so many different ways for you to get your power back. I cannot stress enough that under federal law, you do not need to suffer the financial burden of your school’s mistakes. If the school fails to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate violence and prevent its recurrence, they may be required to reimburse lost tuition and related expenses.

If you are a survivor and want to know more about how Title IX applies to you specifically, all you have to do is contact the legal team at Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), where you can receive free legal counseling ( Federal Title IX complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination, but may be extended for good cause. You can find a composite list of survivor resources, including culturally specific resources (like Monsoon), confidential resources on campus (like the Chaplain’s Office), and anonymous reporting (EthicsPoint) here[9].

This elegy is more of a call to action. I’ve heard so many people asking, “what can we do?” after learning about sexual violence on campus and in the world. First of all, believe and support survivors. Read the DV aims and goals and demand them, work towards them, and create spaces for consciousness-raising and direct action. Know the law and learn more about effective organizing.[10]  Begin and continue to point out discriminatory practices and protect equal access to education.

— Hankyeol Song ’17



[3] pg. 25

[4] pg. 24-25







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