SUNY Potsdam to review how sexual assault, harassment cases handled

SUNY Potsdam to review how sexual assault, harassment cases handled

POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - SUNY Potsdam officials are promising reform in response to student protests.

A complete review of how sexual harassment and assault complaints are handled is underway.

The review is prompted by protests – off and on campus. Students said SUNY Potsdam’s investigations of sexual harassment and abuse complaints fall short. The university now says it’s listening.

“Hence the need for really sweeping, a really sweeping look, at what we’re doing to understand how we can serve students better,” said Kristin Esterberg, SUNY Potsdam president.

The university has formed a committee to investigate how past complaints were handled. It emphasizes cases will not be reopened. But it wants to see where it can improve.

“We want to get it right. We know we are not going to solve everything. But we at least want to be within best practice. So we need to know what best practice is and that’s our goal,” said Claudia Ford, the college’s interim chief diversity officer.

There will also be more immediate steps. Windows will go on doors to music studios and professor’s office studios.

“So that faculty and students know that they’re visible. So nothing can be done in secret,” Esterberg said.

Many of the complaints have swirled around the Crane School of Music. The school is now developing a guide to “best practices” to prevent harassment or abuse.

Students told 7 News they’re watching the university’s actions closely. They’re hopeful, but also afraid. Afraid, they say, that it may just be more of the same.

“My biggest fear is that this is all just going to be talk,” said Katelin Guerin, a junior. “We want to make sure that when we leave there will be things in place for people to ensure their safety.”

The university says since the protests started three students have come in to tell about shortcomings when their past complaints were investigated. Two have reported sexual abuse to police.

Students say they plan to keep up the pressure, both through protests, and the work of the school’s committee.

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