Addressing Issues of Harassment, Abuse, Assault on an Organizational Level on College Campus

At Wellesley, the only formal outlet to address issues of sexual assault, harassment, or violence and to have them be recognized was through Title IX. Going through the Title IX process can be incredibly emotionally and mentally taxing, and may invalidate the reporter’s experience, especially when it involves members of the LGBTQ community. This process can be draining and painful yet still not hold the respondent accountable. Other colleges, however, have systems in place to hold individuals accountable at an organization level when the reporter wants to feel safe and comfortable in their community but not go through the Title IX process.

A person who had this experience explained this oversight to a group of organization presidents and myself. We recognized this constraint and saw that our organizations had no systems to address issues of harassment, abuse, and assault at an organization and community level along with the Title IX process or instead of going through the Title IX process. If a member of an organization was abusive, there was no way to hold them accountable without bringing in the college.

Though this is collegiate policy work, the process we went through felt similar to design justice work. We researched how other colleges’ organizations addressed these issues and spoke to Boston organizations that had experience in this domain. We then drafted our initial system and process to address these issues (along with outlining community standards at a broader level) and went through months of iteration to create the most comprehensive document that would make our communities safer. We included our respective communities in the iteration process as well.

After refining each system to work in our organization’s structure, we sent out a template for other organizations to apply a system like this and a system of community standards in their organizations if they were interested. We are now continuing to iterate with the college to create a more refined system that the college can offer to organizations that already exist or as they are created.

The first design justice principle, I believe, resonated most with this project: design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems. In this process, experts were not involved in the collaboration enough, which made the process inefficient and perhaps more strenuous and iterative than needed.