On Tuesday Oct. 15, Dean of Students Will Gilyard made an announcement at assembly to the student body concerning KO’s harassment policy. The announcement was in response to the KO News September editorial titled “Unite against assault and harassment at KO.”
In a prior assembly, Mr. Gilyard had addressed KO’s harassment policy in a PowerPoint at assembly. In his presentation he defined harassment as laid out by the KO student handbook, and the KO News editorial board wrote an article from the perspective of students on the administration’s handling of harassment cases. The article discussed cases of harassment from a student’s perspective, citing that the disciplinary action for harassment and bullying seem to be equal if not lesser than academic dishonesty, despite the former being a greater offense.
The editorial also argued that victims of harassment often stay silent due to fear of not being taken seriously or criticism from their peers, while also calling both the administration and students to change this. Mr. Gilyard shared a similar sentiment of wanting the community to stand together against harassment. “I think a recognition that this is not solely a Dean of Students or form dean issue,” he said. “This is something that at some point we have to figure out as a community how we are going to respond collectively.”
He also said that while he supports the editorial in that it holds both the administration and students to a higher standard, he wants to dispel any confusion or concerns about how cases will be handled. “I thought the editorial was fair in many ways,” he said. “I think they’re trying to kind of hold the administration’s feet to the fire and make sure we’re doing all we can to help change their perception of what may be out there.”
In his most recent announcement, Mr. Gilyard reemphasized his prior points about harassment at KO as well as addressed some of the concerns displayed in the editorial. “I was hoping to get across that they recognize that the adults, especially people within the administration, do not think of harassment and people who are going through any kind of physical trauma or emotional trauma is the same as plagiarism,” he said.
Overall, the student body thought that Mr. Gilyard’s announcement was necessary and good for starting conversations, but would like to see more action taken by the community as a whole. “I was happy he did the announcement; I think it’s necessary to talk about harassment,” senior Maggie Eberle said. “I think it’s a little sad we have to continue this conversation and bring it up every month, but hopefully it will change.”
Junior Risha Ranjan said she agreed that the announcement was appreciated. “I think it’s great that he’s acknowledging the fact that harassment happens, and that the administration is not doing enough,” she said. “But I also think he hasn’t clearly proposed a solution that works for everyone and I don’t think its a very final like this is what we’re going to do to do better.” With more campus-wide conversations, Mr. Gilyard hopes KO will continue to improve on both the concerns of the editorial and the KO community. “Hopefully I addressed some of the things that they were asking me to address and if not, you know we can continue,” he said. “This is an ongoing process, which is good.” With this response, both the administration and student body look to be taking progressive steps against harassment.