Rebuilding trust is not the issue – conflicts of interest are

Rebuilding trust is not the issue – conflicts of interest are

We began 2018 with a monumental victory in basketball that UMBC still cannot seem to stop talking about; we will end with a $10 million civil suit alleging UMBC’s mishandling of sexual assault cases, a monumental event in the university’s history that will likely be glossed over in future admissions events with a quaint “We can and will do better.”

The suit, which has now named President Freeman Hrabowski as a defendant, has been filed two years after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into UMBC’s handling of sexual assault cases. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the OCR investigation is still ongoing, and administrators were notified when the investigation began – two years ago.

While the solutions addressed so far by campus administration – changing light bulbs and updating the campus card to include campus resources – are both needed and appreciated, they feel as helpful as band-aids on a bullet wound. They may soak up some blood, which is certainly necessary, but ultimately they do not address the larger issue.

The administration’s promise to bring in outside experts sounds great on paper, but reading between the lines reveals that they will review “all aspects of [UMBC’s] sexual misconduct prevention and response policies and training and awareness programs,” according to an email sent on Oct. 11. Nowhere does it mention external review of UMBC administration and staff.

The Accountability Team set forth to engage in damage control is a pitiful attempt at smoothing over relations with the student body. Though they work together with students, there are still no students on the team, a slap in the face to the university’s idea of shared governance. Additionally, some of the administrators on the team are part of the Title IX office itself or on President Hrabowski’s immediate staff.

How can we expect those who are implicated in the recent allegations or those who have worked at this university since the OCR investigation began in 2016 to truly move this campus forward and protect its students?

The administration must realize that this is a far bigger issue than they are trying to make it out to be. Did listening to the stories of survivors stir nothing within them? Will the $10 million civil suit finally be enough to get them to pay attention?

When President Hrabowski sat down with the editorial board of The Baltimore Sun a little less than two weeks ago, he assured them and the community at large that this was something of the greatest concern for the UMBC campus community.

But transparency is not forthcoming, and so here we are again, writing almost the same staff editorial we wrote two issues ago – one we will probably have to continue rewriting should the administrative response remain the same.

As of yet, there has been no official response from UMBC to the amended lawsuit filed last Wednesday besides the standard press response. We call on the administration yet again to take action and to commit to transparency. Attempting to make the problem go away will only result in further loss of trust and further tarnishing of our university’s irreplaceable reputation.