Unite against assault and harassment at KO


This year, the Kingswood Oxford administration has made a concerted effort to address and combat harassment and assault — sexual and otherwise — amongst the student body. During a recent Tuesday assembly, Dean of Students William Gilyard made an impassioned speech to the community, urging us to be conscious of how we interact with each other.

While this assembly was a step in the right direction, we feel as though not only was it long overdue, but it was merely the first step on the road to acknowledging and combating assault and harassment in our community.

Although well-intentioned, the administration needs to be conscious of the fact that many students have expressed that they are afraid to report allegations of harassment to the school for the same reasons as victims everywhere: fear of the disbelief, ridicule, and ostracizing by the community that often follows those brave enough to voice their experiences.

Yes, it is laudable that KO is attempting to combat harassment in order to create a healthier learning environment by guaranteeing that victims’ experiences will be validated and their voices heard during the process of reporting.

However, the administration needs to publicly emphasize that not only are these actions intolerable but also that they will be met with proportionate repercussions and that the victims will be supported wholeheartedly by the school through the often lengthy process.

Disciplinary cases involving harassment and sexual assault are inarguably more grievous offenses than the likes of cheating or plagiarism, yet the student body perceives the consequences for harassment and academic dishonesty to be near equal, most likely because it is constantly drilled into students, both in classes and in assemblies, that plagiarism is not tolerated by the administration. However, due to reasons of confidentiality and privacy, the school finds it difficult to, and thus rarely puts, an equal emphasis on harassment.

While the school might respond differently to the two, depending on the severity of the infraction, the perception around campus is that plagiarism is the most damning offense a student could commit.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the administration to clearly convey to the student body the delineation between their response to harassment and other, comparatively minor, offenses.

They must explain that, despite student perception, in no way does the school equate the harming of other students — physically or mentally — with pressing “command C.” Plagiarism is unacceptable, but harassment of any nature is a category all its own. Both harassment and assault directly harm members of our community while plagiarism is a victimless crime.

By acknowledging the gravity of harassment and bullying, the administration will validate current victims, while additionally encouraging future victims to come forward.

Few students have a clear understanding of what would happen if they were to report an instance of harassment. How can students trust those in positions of power with intensely personal problems if the response they are to receive is, to them, shrouded in ambiguity?

While we understand each case is unique and must be handled as such, we believe it would be beneficial for both students and administrators to hear a general plan of action to be implemented as a guide in cases involving harassment.

Many students feel as though their experiences with harassment won’t be taken seriously because the administration has not explained how they will support the victim and ensure that the problem is dealt with in a serious and just manner.

We expect the administration to improve and expound upon their current handling of harassment and assault cases on campus, yet we also recognize that they are not omnipotent.

It is not solely up to the administration to solve the problem unilaterally, nor is it fair of the community to believe they should; rather, the onus must also be placed upon us, the student body and faculty, to not only report instances of harassment but to empower victims and expose perpetrators.

We must, as a community, unite against harassment, no matter what form it takes. Together, we can make KO a safer place to live and learn for everyone.