Stop Sexual Harassment at Southern Connecticut State University: Help Remove Professor Chevan!

By Carmen Rios
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Southern Connecticut State University has formally allowed a professor who violated its sexual harassment policies to continue teaching – in the midst of a Title IX lawsuit and in the face of growing support for his removal from staff. But students aren’t allowing that to continue much longer.

Wendy Wyler speaks out at a September 10th rally for Professor Chevan's removal
Wendy Wyler speaks out at a September 10th rally for Professor Chevan’s removal. (Photo by Peter Hvizdak — New Haven Register)

Here’s the situation: In 2011, Wendy Wyler reported to SCSU that Prof. David Chevan had verbally and physically sexually harassed her. In addition to making several unwanted sexual advances, Chevan led Wendy into a storage room, closed the door, stood in front of it, and continually propositioned her. She was traumatized. In a press release, she stated that “when he shut the door behind him, everything about him changed. I wondered if anyone would hear me if I screamed. I repeatedly told him no.”

When Wendy reported Chevan’s misconduct, campus officials told her she was overreacting and asked that she reconsider whether she wanted to make a formal report. She did, and then she spent her senior year on campus feeling alienated and unable to take music courses since he was still teaching. Although it was determined by the university that Chevan was a bonafide creep, he was allowed to continue teaching and only received a minor suspension as punishment.

But Wendy isn’t alone. Stories of similar experiences with Professor Chevan go back a decade. According to a press release, a student explained that when Wendy’s case went public, “more than one of my colleagues indicated that they had information about other instances of sexual misconduct, but victims did not want to report. The fact that we have so few reported cases ought to be a red flag. The question isn’t whether there are problems . . . but rather how we respond to them.”

SCSU Speaks, a student-run organization on the campus, as well as SurvJustice founder Laura Dunn and PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment)  founder Angela Rose, have taken action: they staged a rally and launched a petition on Change.org. Students and faculty on campus have joined the three groups in pursuit of justice and a safer campus for all SCSU students.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUmyJGbjsGg

“I’m supporting this petition because this university has done its students wrong,” a student wrote on the petition. “Ensuring the safety of your students is their job. I’m supporting this petition because I am furious.”

You can sign the petition on Change.org to show solidarity with SCSU students and keep yourself posted on the situation by liking the SCSU Speaks Facebook page – and if you’re located around the university campus, we urge you to join SCSU Speaks, SurvJustice, and PAVE in taking action to remove Professor Chevan immediately. Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and women on college campuses shouldn’t feel unsafe receiving an education. A minor punishment is not enough. Inaction is not okay.

We stand with the students of SCSU. And we couldn’t be more proud of what they’re doing.

By Carmen Rios

Carmen splits her time disparately between feminist rabble-rousing, writing, public speaking, and flower-picking. She is currently Communications Coordinator at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Straddleverse and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a writer with FORCE. Carmen is a SPARK alum and former Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. She's part of an oncoming anthology about girls' activism.

3 comments

  1. Wendy is very brave. I appreciate her efforts. I didn’t speak out, because I didn’t want him coming after me.

  2. Ok, I just finished the video, and I feel physically sick. He did it to me, too, about 17 years ago. I had him for Music Theory and Musicianship, and I had a lot of friends in the department who knew exactly what was going on. I thought they had lost respect for me, because I kissed up to Chevan. I wanted affirmation, and I was flattered. But at the same time, I was creeped out. I kept hoping we could return to a “healthy” relationship with the funny banter, etc, that I had enjoyed previously. It wasn’t meant to be, but I was young, and I was embarrassingly naive. I babysat for David and Julie for a few years, and I didn’t want to speak up and embarrass the boys, but I think they pretty much know the truth now. Please don’t delete my comment. It’s the truth.

  3. At times, administrations in higher ed resemble those in the church: they are more concerned with preserving their image than in correcting an egregious offense and attempting to redress the injury to the victims. Wendy is indeed a brave young woman to resist the efforts of her school to play down Chevan’s crimes. Sexual predators are rarely deterred by potential punishments, but perhaps Wendy’s example will encourage more active participation by the colleges and universities by ridding their campuses of these people, rather than allowing them to continue their predations.

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