Holding signs saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” “Hire Title IX Staff Now” and “Justice for Survivors,” San Jose State University students are protesting for a safer campus.
Students Against Sexual Assault are demanding the university’s Title IX office be fully staffed, more transparent and accountable after a federal investigation found the office lacking. Title IX is a federal law that protects students and employees in educational settings against gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
Students are also demanding the removal of administrators complicit in the cover-up of sexual abuse by Scott Shaw, former SJSU director of sports medicine, charged with sexually abusing 23 female student athletes. In September 2021, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found the university to be in violation of Title IX, having treated sexual misconduct reports with negligence and retaliation.
The protest took place on Wednesday in front of the Spartan Complex where Shaw worked. SJSU sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton said he feels sick every time he passes the building knowing 23 students were sexually assaulted there.
“Previous administrations knew about it and not only didn’t do anything to stop it, but went after the whistleblower,” he told San José Spotlight. “As a faculty member… the most important thing we do is provide a safe environment for our students to critically think.”
Students Against Sexual Assault co-founder Karlie Eacock said what happened with Shaw damaged the relationship students have with the campus.
“There’s a lot of healing that needs to be done,” she told San José Spotlight. “In the past eight months, SJSU has failed to engage with the campus community, make amends… and actively be involved in outreach. SJSU is failing in making a safe environment for students.”
Sage Hopkins, head coach of the SJSU women’s swimming and diving team and whistleblower to the sexual abuse scandal, said there is a need for systemic reform that ensures a safe and inclusive environment independent of political manipulation. Hopkins read a statement by a student who reported being sexually abused by Shaw to university administrators, which said:
“Years later,” (the student) said, “I learned that this report, along with the reports of my teammates and other brave student athletes somehow disappeared. Our integrity, our honesty and our abuse were buried.”
Eacock said when Papazian stepped down, the former president said funding would be allocated for hiring a full Title IX staff, to increase outreach to students and respond to reports. Students Against Sexual Assault co-founder Alexandra Ferry said the university has not lived up to this promise.
“This is a huge concern after everything that had been covered up during the past decade by university administration,” Ferry told San José Spotlight.
Eacock said after the Department of Justice decree, the university’s Title IX office was unmanned for three months, creating a backlog of reports. The office currently has two employees when six are needed, she said, including investigators and program coordinators.
She said the university claims the lack of staffing is due to salaries being too low to attract candidates, although the salary range is up to $120,000 per year. Another issue is the university outsources investigations to an out of state law firm rather than campus employees.
SJSU Interim President Stephen Perez said the university is struggling to hire Title IX employees.
“This is a high demand area,” he told San José Spotlight. “It’s hard to hire Title IX investigators. It’s a high-level position requiring high-level training. We’re trying as hard as we can.”
Perez said the university is in compliance with the Department of Justice’s requirements.
“We’ve increased our training,” he said. “We’ve increased our communication. While we haven’t fully staffed our office, we are outsourcing and making sure we have people to do the services we need to have a safe environment.”
Students are also demanding administrators who withheld reports from the Department of Justice be removed from the university.
“We’re anticipating there will be an investigation against those individuals,” Eacock said. “Knowing they were key players and keeping them there is denying the healing of this campus community and denying justice for the people who were impacted by this case.”
Perez said a chaperone policy has been implemented for students interacting with trainers and the university will improve its website to inform students of Title IX resources. He is meeting on Monday with Students Against Sexual Assault.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]