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Annie Mayne (COM ‘23) is a fourth year Journalism student in the College of Communication former co-chair if 16,000 Strong, the BU Student Government Senate’s standing committee fighting sexual violence on campus.
On March 20, 2023, the Boston University Student Government Senate passed a Survivor’s Bill of Rights. The nine pages of legislation enshrine existing rights at BU and address consistent issues survivors have reported. It builds on years of activism at BU — starting with the launch of the Campus Survivors Instagram page three years ago.
When the Campus Survivors page began posting anonymous accounts of sexual misconduct, the sheer number of reports shocked the BU community. But what came as a greater surprise was the ways in which BU repeatedly failed its students and survivors.
Reports detail a litany of problems: apathy from adjudicators, disregard of “stay-away” orders and extensive investigation periods that went past graduation dates, resulting in some survivors never receiving a decision.
The most persistent issue reported was a lack of empathy from administrators, judicial affairs and BUPD. As one survivor wrote in a statement posted May 12, 2020, “You walk into a judicial affairs conference room where a middle aged white man talks to you like you’re the one who’s in trouble.”
That’s why the first article of the bill addresses the training adjudicators receive, prioritizing intersectional education. There are also various articles throughout the legislation that seek to protect survivors from insensitive questioning and victim blaming.
The bill goes on to tackle the greatest failings mentioned in Campus Survivor reports and works to anticipate other barriers survivors may face. This includes financial and emotional burdens, protecting financial aid packages and scholarships as well as giving survivors the opportunity to take a leave of absence without academic risk.
It also addresses Title IX updates that save survivors from traumatizing cross examinations and updates BU’s definition of consent to eliminate room for confusion.
Each and every word in the legislation has been carefully written and reviewed by dozens of students, survivors and activists on campus over the course of nearly two years. Thank you to organizers from Campus Survivors, the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism, It’s On Us, Sexual Assault Response and Prevention ambassadors and the College of Arts and Sciences Student Government for your work, on this bill and beyond.
I believe the greatest challenge student activists face is that they are only on campus for a few years, and change at an institution as bureaucratic as Boston University is incredibly slow. That’s why the most important feature of this legislation is that it will be at BU longer than any of us, and serve as a constant reminder that BU should be doing more to protect its students and support its survivors.
BU has made it clear they don’t see students’ safety as their responsibility. After being sued by a survivor in 2016, a large tenet of the school’s defense was that “The University Made No Definite Or Certain Promise To Keep Students Safe.”
I don’t accept that.
BU is a machine, worth billions of dollars, with ample resources to answer to the needs of their students. If there is any part of the bill that they cannot make reality, they should be able to provide a detailed explanation as to why.
It’s important to remember every right survivors have on this campus was hard-fought for. SARP was only created in 2013, after student activists in CGSA put together a proposal and petition. The Provost Committee that President Brown touted in a recent interview with the Daily Free Press came out of demands from protests held in Spring 2021.
I hope that some tangible change will come out of the passage of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights.
But it will take students, staff and parents coming together and calling on BU to do more. We can not continue to accept apathy from the administrators who will do everything in their power — which is extensive — to sweep the issue of sexual violence under the rug.
Eventually, you will graduate and leave the campus. I am in a few days. The question is: what do you want BU to be like after you’re gone? For the friends you leave behind, and the students you will never know.
I want BU to be a place where students can feel safe. I want BU to be a place where the administration cares about its students. And I want BU to be a place where, if anyone is forced to be a survivor, they can feel supported by their school.
I think the administration adopting the Survivor’s Bill of Rights is the first step toward those changes, but I know it won’t be the last. If you agree, join me in signing this petition and continually calling on BU to be better.