The efficacy of student demonstrations

Haley Beardsley, Opinions Co-Editor

The walk-out staged on Monday was nothing short of demanding. Roughly three hundred people, including faculty and students, filled the science quad to protest University cover-up of sexual violence. 

Roughly a month ago, former Public Safety Officer Colby Snook filed a lawsuit against the University, declaring he faced a hostile work environment after “blowing the whistle about police misconduct within Bucknell’s Public Safety Office.” According to the complaint, the male assailant, referred to as M.S. in the complaint, was caught taking photos of an unconsenting young woman in a restroom in McDonnell Hall. The young woman noticed M.S. and called Bucknell Public Safety, who caught him later that evening; consequently, his phone was taken as evidence. 

According to the complaint, within the next few days, “Chief Barilar met with M.S.’s parents and spoke with M.S.’s father. Later the next afternoon, M.S. came to the Bucknell Public Safety Office and requested access to his cell phone. Per Chief Barilar’s order, Office Middleton removed M.S.’s phone from evidence and gave the phone to Chief Barilar.” M.S had access to his phone a second time at the Bucknell Public Safety Office, during which, it is, “upon information and belief, [he] initiated a factory reset to his phone.”

The “misconduct” Snook reported was the delivery of the phone back to the perpetrator, which was ordered by Chief Barilar. Considering all of the information contained in the complaint, the student’s erasure of evidence is presumably a direct result of Barilar’s actions. M.S. had other pending charges against him as well as links to previous incidents: “Snook spoke with Chief Barilar about this incident as well as a prior incident (2020 incident) M.S. was linked to. Chief Barilar told Snook that they should keep the prior incident (a harassment charge) against M.S. internal, which meant no criminal charges would be brought.” Although it is unclear with only limited context, the desire to remain “internal” was seemingly applied to the 2021 harassment, an act that could potentially add difficulty to the pursuit of the young woman’s Title IX case as well as any desired subsequent criminal lawsuit.

If M.S. was a repeat offender, how many times have his cases remained “internal?” Could there have been more evidence of harassment than that of the May 2021 incident? How many women have been equally disserviced by Barliar’s—albeit alleged—corroboration? 

Students became privy to the case after a news article broke in NorthCentralPA five weeks ago. The news intersected with recent brewing conversation about increased sexual violence on campus. There has been consistent concern about the silencing of victim-survivors and attainability of pursuing University action against perpetrators. All in conjunction with the disappointing and inappropriate response, as per students perspective, from Public Safety to the Fran’s House incident in May 2020. Distrust in Public Safety has been augmenting, and the pressure finally is giving way—at least for the students. 

The University has yet to release a statement concerning its support of the week-long student demonstrations. While the University is prohibited from commenting on the on-going case, it is permitted to comment on the current mistrust of Public Safety, lack of security felt by students, the incomparable epidemic of sexual violence on campus, and the two demands—written by organizers and supported by protest attendees–that are far from unreasonable. 

While the walk-out is a tried-and-true method for students to gain University attention, there are caveats. Consistency is non-negotiable. The bombardment of administration with letters, calls, emails, and more walkouts is the only sustainable way for students to push the change we want to see; however, bombardment has a limit when we are writing papers, applying for jobs, and all the other quotidian activities of college life. 

There is one thing the University consistently responds to: money. The University is beholden to the source of its sustenance whether that be parents, donors or alumni. While we do our part through peaceful action, urge your financial support systems to do the same. For donors and alumni, are you still proud to be connected to a University that is neglecting its students? 

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