…in response to the story of rapes and sexual assaults there, broken by Damien and Simcha Fisher.
They released this statement, which not only walks back their initial response calling out (unspecified) “misleading information and serious inaccuracies” in the (unnamed) Fishers’ coverage, but actually thanks and praises the Fishers’ for their good work:
“I want to extend my gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Fisher for giving these women a platform to share their voices with us.”
Also good news: “the College has hired experts to review campus compliance with best practices in sexual assault and harassment.” Time will tell if this leads to real institutional change, but it’s a hopeful sign.
On the downside, real institutional change is still badly needed. So, for instance, Adele Smith, whose tragic story began this investigation for which the Fishers are now praised by the school, is denied entry to the Christendom Alumni group on Facebook–according to the Fishers
Adele Smith and other critics denied entry to alumni group
The school said on Wednesday that it is interested in hearing from “each and every victim.” But Adele Smith, the survivor who forced the story into the public eye, has been denied entry into the official Alumni group on Facebook. She has received no explanation for the denial.
Her rapist, though, is a member. Other alumni have requested entry and have been accepted during the same time frame that Smith requested entry and was denied. Several alumni say they have been removed from the group without explanation after they shared Smith’s story.
Positive testimony welcome; critics silenced
Just days earlier, Tom McFadden, Vice President for Enrollment & Marketing, solicited stories from Christendom alumni on the official alumni group, which is moderated by Vince Christe, Assistant Director of Alumni and Donor Relations.
Jane Riccardi, an alumna of Christendom, then suggested in the group that former students collect positive stories into a file to promote the idea that Christendom is an unusually safe place that “promotes the dignity, inherent worth, freedom, and safety of all women on campus.” Riccardi said in an email that she “was hopeful to begin a constructive and helpful conversation.”
Shortly after stories began coming in, it became apparent to some alumni that the stories were not all positive.
“If someone unsympathetic gets hold of the link [to the page for testimonies], it’s all over,” said one alum.
“This is definitely a concern,” another agreed.
Riccardi responded, “Thank you for pointing this out. I’ve changed the privacy settings and will instead collect responses by email.”
Riccardi then collected the positive testimonies into a document called A Letter about Christendom College Culture and emailed it to the Fishers, calling Christendom “[a] pocket of fresh air offering an oasis away from the sewage of the culture at large.”
As of Friday, January 19, the official alumni group included in its guidelines the rule: “[P]lease refrain from posting articles or engaging in discussions about topics that criticize . . . Christendom College.”
Several alumni have reported being thrown out of the Facebook group, apparently for violating this rule by discussing the articles detailing Smith’s rape.
Christendom says it wants students to come forward and report sexual abuse, to tell their stories. Some alumni express deep skepticism that the same college that excluded unfavorable testimony from alumni one day will be open to hearing and acting on damaging testimony from students the next day.
And that is not all:
More stories of rape are ahead
We are currently working on corroborating seven other stories of sexual assault of Christendom students, including students who are currently enrolled at Christendom. These reports were grossly mishandled by the administration that is still in office.
I hope Christendom really is going to get serious about this.