Rally calls attention to alleged sexual assault and harassment complaints

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 2:03 PM EDT
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POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - A student-led group is frustrated with the silence they say is coming from SUNY Potsdam about alleged cases of sexual harassment and assault on campus.

The sit-in was silent outside SUNY Potsdam Wednesday.

For organizer Jaiden Widdall, it’s to show how some view the school’s handling of alleged sexual assault complaints.

“It seems as if SUNY Potsdam has been very silent about issues like this,” Widdall said, “so we’re going to combat that.”

But the day didn’t start at the school.

The rally made up of students and community members met downtown first. That’s where student Sarah Haller shares an experience she had in a 2019 rock-climbing class.

“He made me take off my flannel instead of basically being able to wear my flannel, because he had to be able to see my harness, even though we were working on the ground,” Heller said. “And what we were working on did not require a harness.”

Haller says other students and alumni have had uncomfortable experiences with that professor, so a group formed to speak to the school about title nine complaints.

“They forced him to retire instead of firing him,” Haller said.

Widdall, who shared her own sexual assault experience in a Facebook post last Saturday, says stories like these are the reason the rally is happening now.

“There has been a lot of talk and a lot of people are angry,” she said, “and we just got to get things done.”

SUNY Potsdam president Doctor Kristin Esterberg says the college is listening and launching an investigation of all past reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

Widdall hopes the rally sparks change.

“I want people to start talking about this -- no more silence,” she said. “and I’m hoping that regulations get changed in the way that SUNY Potsdam addresses issues like this.”

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