For about 90 minutes, about 70 protesters stood at the intersection of Lenora Street and Terry Avenue and called on administrators to respond.
Some students at Cornish College of the Arts walked out of class Monday, saying their school has allowed perpetrators of sexual assault to stay on campus.
Around 70 protesters stood at the intersection of Lenora Street and Terry Avenue in South Lake Union for about 90 minutes and called on administrators to respond, chanting phrases such as “Protect victims, not predators.” They walked into Cornish President Raymond Tymas-Jones’ office, where he listened for an hour, taking notes and asking questions.
“You’ve had to contend with situations that sound intolerable,” he said, adding that he hopes to improve the school’s response to sexual assault.
Cornish is a private arts college that enrolls 628 students. It has buildings in Capitol Hill and near the Seattle Center, with its flagship campus and administrative offices located in South Lake Union.
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In the meeting, students explained their concerns, one after another. Some cited negative experiences during the reporting process, while others attended in solidarity. The students said they wanted the college to be more transparent about how sexual assault cases are handled. They also called for more prevention efforts, a clear explanation of consequences and better training for resident advisers.
The president — only three months into the job — agreed to look into those recommendations, and also said he would form a student committee.
The school doesn’t have a full-time Title IX coordinator. As Cornish works to hire one, Tymas-Jones said, the dean of students will continue to handle Title IX cases. He has also called for an investigation into what causes sexual assault at Cornish.
Cornish has many classes where students must be intimate and vulnerable with each other, such as in the theater department, students said. And the college is so small, it’s likely students who have had traumatic interactions will run into each other, they said.
Rachel Pacelli, a senior studying theater, said her main concern is with what she sees as light sanctions. The school found the student she reported to be responsible for sexual misconduct. He was placed on probation, and required to take an online anti-harassment course and meet with a student success coach, according to documents she shared with The Times. Despite the school’s findings, she said she has shared a class with him for the past month, although she said she was promised this would change.
“Every single time I see him, my stomach drops,” she said. “It’s not about revenge, it’s about holding people accountable.”
Cornish allows students to receive administrative “no-contact” orders preventing communication between parties and allowing for some modifications to keep them apart, but it doesn’t necessarily keep students from sharing a class, according to college spokeswoman Rosemary Jones.
The school’s handbook states that potential consequences could also include suspension, reassignment and being pulled from housing. But if a student wants to make sure she doesn’t run into the person responsible, the “no contact” order issued in response to a complaint would not necessarily keep them fully separated all the time.
Jones said she could not discuss Pacelli’s case, citing federal student-privacy law, but added that the college strictly prohibits sexual misconduct.
Tymas-Jones told students he took their concerns seriously.
“I don’t want this to go on another year,” he said. “It’s going to take us a moment or two to get this solved, but I’m going to work on it.”
As the protest began, the school’s dean of students and acting Title IX coordinator Brittany Henderson sent an email on behalf of vice president for enrollment Ryan O’Mealey, telling them that “students who spread misinformation are exposing themselves to liability or charges of defamation.” The email also stated that “it is vital that victims feel that they can come forward safely, without fear that rumors will destroy their reputation.”