Student Sit-in at College of The Holy Cross

Sarah Ardolino:

More than 350 Holy Cross students organized a sit-in outside president Rev. Philip L. Boroughs’ office at The College of Holy Cross in Worcester. They were protesting about what they called the college’s slow and insufficient responses to alleged sexual offenses on campus. Students were fed up with the school’s administration process and decided to take action into their own hands. Along with the sit-in, the students prepared a list of demands.

             According to the Worcester Telegram, “Students said they would wait in front of his office until they got a response, and that Monday’s protest comes from a growing dissatisfaction with the administration’s overall handling of communication with students and the campus’s unaddressed “rape culture.”

            The sit-in was sparked by what students said was an inadequate investigation of a former Holy Cross Dean and Professor Christopher A. Dustin. The female student who experienced Dustin’s harassment reported him to Holy Cross’ Title IX office in 2017. She stated anonymously to Worcester Magazine, “As time went on, his language became more sexually charged. He told me I was ‘hot’ and said that he would ‘love to see’ my body… Once I began to resist his behavior more clearly, he reacted with anger and hostility, at one point calling me a ‘real bitch’ and making other derogatory remarks.”

            After being alerted about his misconduct, the college looked into his behavior and the investigation lasted for about 20 months. During this time, Dustin was allowed to continue his job, work with other female students, and was appointed as dean. Students, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees were not alerted of his behavior in those 20 months. Dustin was demoted from dean during the end of investigation and was put on leave this 2019 Spring Semester.

            This is not the first time sexual misconduct has been on Holy Cross’ campus. The Boston Globe reported in August of 2018, five students came forward about being sexually abused by organ professor David Christie. They stated to the college, “[Christie] is an imminent danger to students on your campus. Holy Cross has enabled Prof. Christie’s misconduct, and has a responsibility now to respond to our coming forward as quickly and decisively as possible”

            Since the posting of the article, Christie was put on administrative leave, and he has submitted a letter of resignation to the college.

            After the end of the two-day sit-in, 3 out of the 4 demands have been met. The College of the Holy Cross did not fire Dustin and says it will release a letter with legal information why they cannot meet every demand. Additionally, a few students met with the president for an hour-long meeting, and he said he will issue a letter acknowledging the students’ concerns about the slow investigation of the sexual offense claim against Dustin.

Picture by @CarsonHarold1

         “We can all come away from this protest from my eyes seeing it as a success,” said Mirthra Salmassi, a student organizer of the sit-in to the Worcester Telegram, “We have really pushed the administration and I believe we have conveyed to them that we expect more and we deserve better as a student body.”

            The students of Holy Cross represent a movement much bigger than their campus in Worcester. Sexual harassment is not something new to college campuses. It is something that has been happening for years and it continues to happen today. The students of Holy Cross inspire us to #endsexualviolence and #demandmore

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