BY LILY REAVIS ’21
Content warning: this article references sexual assault.
This is a developing story and the Mount Holyoke News recognizes that the following topic is sensitive. In order to accurately represent the situation and to best serve the community, the Mount Holyoke News has decided to publish an account of the information already available to the public, which follows below. An updated version of this article will be available on the Mount Holyoke News website within the next few days and a more in-depth article will be published in the Oct. 25 edition.
— The Mount Holyoke News Executive Board
On Oct. 13, the Associated Press (AP) published a story featuring a Mount Holyoke alumna’s account of an assault by a professor while she was a student at the College. Ruth D’Eredita ’84 said that she sent a letter to the College in October 2017 detailing the assault.
In her letter to the school, D’Eredita explained that a professor drove her to an art museum, parked and began kissing and groping her inside the car. Later, he resumed the assault on her inside the museum, kissing and groping her, again according to the Associated Press.
The accused professor was not named, but was identified as still teaching at the College.
According to the AP article, the College hired an outside firm to investigate D’Eredita’s accusation in October of 2017. Ultimately, it was decided that there was not enough evidence to prove that an assault took place and the case was closed.
At least two other claims of sexual assault from the 1980s have been brought up to the College since the #MeToo movement took off last year, according to AP.
On Oct. 15, President Sonya Stephens emailed the entire College community with an update about past students’ sexual assault claims, particularly in response to the AP article about D’Eredita’s case.
The email contained a link to a website which detailed the events from when the College first received the letters to current updates. The website states, “In any instance where findings of fact determined that College policies were violated, appropriate sanctions have been imposed, and disciplinary actions have been taken.”
In Stephens’ email, she said, “We feel strongly that the College should not disclose the details of a Title IX case, regardless of when the incident under investigation occurred.”
Since the AP article was published on Oct. 13, Mount Holyoke College’s Amnesty International chapter has reached out directly to the College’s administration to voice their concerns on the matter. They also connected with D’Eredita and several other alumnae with #MeToo experiences.
On Oct. 17, all students currently enrolled at Mount Holyoke received an invitation to attend an open dialogue regarding Title IX issues that same night. Students and some faculty filled the Blanchard Great Room and engaged in conversation for over two hours with President Sonya Stephens, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Kijua SandersMcMurtry, Dean of Faculty Jon Western and Title IX and 504 Coordinator Shannon Da Silva on this topic.
There will be another open forum of a similar kind on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
If you have information or an experience you would like to share, please feel free to reach out to the Mount Holyoke News at firstname.lastname@example.org.