MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University students came together to put pressure on administrators to look out for the students when it comes to sexual misconduct.
On Wednesday, a small group of students protested outside of the WVU Creative Arts Center to bring attention to the school’s handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases within the school of music.
Ashley Rogers, a sexual assault survivor and WVU student, said she knows nearly 100 people in the school of music who have been sexually assaulted or harassed.
“There was even one girl who was as young as 14 who had dealt with this guy. It was just really heartbreaking to see,” Rodgers said.
She also said there are multiple people that students are making cases against and that the misconduct has been going on for years.
Rogers said she was sexually harassed by a person of authority that was in charge of her grades. Cheyenne Henline, a WVU student, said she had issues with the same person. Both Rogers and Henline said they didn’t feel supported by the people who were supposed to look out for them after they said they had been sexually harassed.
“We’ve been told that there needs to be a policy change by some people in power, but honestly, the policies are already there; they just need to be enforced and people just need to be completely honest and the whole process. Administration, if they’re interviewed about people of interest, perpetrators, they need to care more about the safety of their students than their own reputation,” Rogers said.
Both Henline and Rogers lost some interest in their education when their cases were dismissed and stopped majoring in music.
“Ever since I was a little kid, music was my safe space and was kind of like a place of refuge, like, when my mom passed away and whenever I was coming to a new scary place. And I’m from West Virginia, and I was very proud to be a part of this department, a part of West Virginia University, and they made me not proud to be a part of it anymore, and I lost that thing that I was so passionate about. And it’s sad, but it’s also just really infuriating,” Henline said.
Rogers said she and several girls have evidence and screenshots, yet Student Conduct dismissed the cases. Rogers said the process after she made reports of the misconduct was “grueling” and “dehumanizing.”
“I was seen as crazy, I was seen as a liar which I think contributes to a lot of other people not wanting to come forward because they just don’t take us seriously,” Rogers said.
Even though the cases didn’t have the outcome the women had hoped for, they are glad they still have the support of peers who came out to the protest.
“It’s brave to just continue to exist in a place where you’re not valued, and you’re not heard,” Rogers said.
“It really is comforting to have a space where we feel so supported and people believed us and I’m really glad that other survivors who maybe weren’t ready to report it yet have a space where they feel like they are understood,” Henline said.
12 News requested and received a statement from the university which reads in part “West Virginia University and the College of Creative Arts are aware of the concerns being raised by students regarding the culture in the School of Music” … “Though we cannot comment on pending or completed investigations, we can share that the College of Creative Arts has followed all required procedures and an investigation was completed.”
West Virginia University and the College of Creative Arts are aware of the concerns being raised by students regarding the culture in the School of Music, particularly pertaining to sexual harassment, sexual assault and misconduct.
There are protocols and processes that must be followed when a report or complaint is received in accordance with BOG Governance Rule 1.6 — Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Misconduct, Stalking, Retaliation, and Relationships.
Any issues brought to the college’s attention are immediately referred to the appropriate offices so that a thorough investigation may be conducted. Though we cannot comment on pending or completed investigations, we can share that the College of Creative Arts has followed all required procedures and an investigation was completed.
West Virginia University and the College of Creative Arts takes any complaint or report of misconduct seriously and moves swiftly to assure all concerns are addressed appropriately.Full statement from West Virginia University
April is also sexual assault awareness month at WVU.