By Kyla Dodge-Goshea & Claire Crittendon – 1851 Contributor & Co-Editor-in-Chief
Content Warning: Mentions of sexual assault
In January, Registrar Linda Arce sent out the Spring Pledge to all resident and commuter students. While the majority of this document was similar to the Fall Pledge, there was one standout: adjustments to the amnesty policy.
For those unfamiliar, the amnesty policy is a type of select immunity from certain consequences. The new amendment includes protection from COVID-19 penalties for reporting parties who may have been in violation of COVID-19 policies. Reporting of alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, hazing, and possession of dangerous weapons are all covered by this amendment according to the amnesty clause of the Spring Pledge.
Counseling Center Staff Adela Hruby, Professor Karin Raye and Title IX Coordinator Jennifer O’Keeffe conveyed a new draft of the amnesty policy to Dean Dave Hennessy, head of the COVID-19 task force over Winter Break.
The draft was then viewed by the entire COVID-19 task force and they reached an agreement. Hruby stated in an interview about the amnesty policy, “[Raye, O’Keeffe and I] said, you know, ‘what do you think of this?’ [and they said] ‘Great.’ Everybody on the task force agreed it makes a lot of sense. It’s a good idea. So there weren’t really any objections there.”
This amendment was added for a multitude of reasons, one of the main goals was easing the process of sexual assault survivors coming forward and starting the reporting process.
“I mean, is that fair?” said Hruby, about the possibility of not adding this amendment. “You’ll have been punished by the experience, and you will then be punished doubly by [the] university for having had someone in your room. I mean, to me, that doesn’t seem reasonable … We didn’t want [a student] to report and be worried about the fact that you may or may not have been violating COVID-19 [policies].”
Hruby also says it’s “pretty widely acknowledged that nobody reads that,” referring to the Spring Pledge this was announced in, and hopes more people around campus are able to become informed.
Senior RA Elizabeth Ruiz said, “I think [the amendment is] great. I think it encourages students to still report things that are happening which is especially hard to do now that they essentially can’t do anything and can’t have anybody in the room. This allows students to still feel like they’re not going to get in trouble for reporting things that need to be reported.”
At the bottom of the pledge, there is a disclaimer as follows, “This statement of amnesty applies to violations of COVID-19 policies but does not preclude the University from taking disciplinary action to address other serious or flagrant violations of policy including, but not limited to, violence, sexual assault, harassment, serious property damage, hazing, or the manufacture, sale, or distribution of prohibited substances. It also cannot preclude or prevent action by police or other legal authorities.”
If you or a loved one are looking for support, there are confidential and non-confidential resources available. The Counseling Center, Health Center, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, and Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) are all available for fully confidential support if you are 18 years old or older. The Title IX office, located in Edgar House and Campus Police are both available for non-confidential reporting and support.