By Erasmus Baxter and Asia Fields
In spring 2017, The Western Front reported that Connor Patrick Griesemer was readmitted to Western after being convicted of, and suspended for, sexually assaulting another student.
Campus response was intense. The AS Board of Directors wrote an open letter on May 18, 2017 expressing its disapproval.
“The readmission of this student convicted of sexual assault is a slap in the face to advocates for survivors, survivors themselves and is a testament to the general complacency that plagues campuses across the United States,” they wrote.
Students organized two protests in Red Square, totaling around 26 people. Protesters left signs outside Dean of Students Ted Pratt’s office door.
Sophomore and resident adviser Hailey Canady organized an email campaign to administrators.
“The university as its own entity can have these goals to be victim and survivor-centered, but the people that are employed here and making decisions here do not feel that way,” she said at the time.
Pratt responded to Canady’s email and said that the safety of students was a top concern.
“The concerns you have shared are important to me and I assure you I genuinely understand the seriousness of sexual assault,” Pratt wrote to Canady. “It is essential that we eradicate this unacceptable behavior and we are committed to that effort.”
Over 75 people emailed university administrators, including resident advisers, incoming freshmen, an alumni who said their family would no longer donate to Western and a survivor of sexual assault on Western’s campus.
“While at the time I was not brave enough to speak up, the survivor assaulted by [Griesemer] spoke up. They spoke up because they wanted to protect others from the violence they had experienced. That student’s action is powerful and that action is brave,” they wrote.
“Dean Pratt, readmitting someone convicted of sexual assault to a university and writing it off as a ‘bad decision influenced by alcohol,’ is not powerful or brave… Do not negate the work this survivor did to protect others on WWU’s campus from violence.”
Griesemer’s readmission continues to be discussed on campus, and was mentioned at Take Back the Night fall 2018 by march participants and organizers who felt the university was not doing enough to address sexual assault.
This is a sidebar to the story “Suspended for sexual assault, readmitted one year later.” Read the full story here.