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Emerson president calls for review of response to sexual assaults amid report

After a report of students filing a complaint, Emerson College's president said Wednesday that the school "can and will do better."

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Credit: Metro file photo

Following a report that students filed a federal complaint regarding Emerson College's response to sexual assault, the school's president on Wednesday called for a review and the hiring of a sexual assault advocate.

President Lee Pelton sent a letter to the Emerson Community Wednesday afternoon.

The letter was in response to a report in the Huffington Post that Emerson student Sarah Tedesco said she was raped at an off-campus party in 2012, but was told by school officials that it was "a quiet matter" and that she "shouldn't be making a big deal of it."

Tedesco and other students said that they filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights last week.

Because of the government shut down, the DOE was not available to provide a copy of the complaint.

In his letter, Pelton said that he could not discuss the specifics of the complaint because of privacy considerations.

However, he said that the college would "begin immediately" a search for a sexual assault advocate who will provide advocacy and support for students who have experienced sexual assault.

He also said that he has requested an independent review of the college's current response to reports of sexual assaults. Pelton appointedSylvia Spears, the college's vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Professor Lori Beth Way, the senior advisor to academic affairs for undergraduate education, to lead the review.

Pelton in his letter recounted various steps by the college to improve sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts since earlier this year, including a program to establish a culture of consent, but added that "we can and we will do better."

"Sexual assault occurs too often on college campuses, and it is critically important that we redouble our efforts to combat incidents that harm our students and undermine what we stand for as a commonwealth of learning," Pelton said. He later added that "there are measures that we can take that will have the effect of strengthening support for our students, providing clearer paths of adjudication and resolution, while enhancing students’ sense of control and self-worth through a process that is too often fractured, confusing and emotionallychallenging."

Tedesco did not return an email message. She wrote about her experience in an article for an online magazine that was published earlier this year.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.

 
 
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