EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Emma Willard Alumnae Advisory Task Force reveals findings and demands more transparency

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Transparency is desired by a group of alumnae at Emma Willard all-girls school, but it is something their alma mater continues to lack they say.

This response comes after a report released last month detailing a dark past of sexual misconduct at the school.

For nearly a year, three former Emma Willard students have been reviewing the school’s policies regarding sexual harassment and abuse.

Saturday they presented their final report to the Board of Trustees.

They only had 30 minutes to present their findings and don’t feel the board took them all that seriously.

Last month Emma Willard released a report detailing allegations that date back to the 1950s regarding sexual misconduct.

The majority described a culture of faculty grooming young women, but last August, the school created an Alumnae Advisory Task Force (AATF) which included a lawyer, professor and an entrepreneur. Each was tasked with the goal of reviewing the school’s handbooks, specifically policies on sexual harassment and abuse, requesting that action be taken.

In their report provided today, the task force found that over the course of six decades countless cases of abuse were overlooked. The policies in place were insufficient and as a result students were vulnerable to predators.

“For 60 years there were missed opportunities at Emma Willard, that’s what the alumnae advisory task force discovered,” said Kimberly Jones (lawyer), alumnae advisory task force chair, 1984 graduate.

The alumnae group said the Board of Trustees, administrators and faculty dropped the ball. But, now is the time to do something about this unfortunate tradition.

“We as students were vulnerable to predators,” Jones said. “The adults around us seemed to kind of operate as though it was business as usual.”

Despite recent changes in policies, the task force still says the school needs more transparency.

Lily Mason is a 1996 graduate of Emma Willard and also a member of the task force. She believes that rule-making and communication needs to improve at her former school and they should be a national leader in dealing with these issues.

“We’ve given them strong recommendations to become you know the school that leads the way, Mason said.

But, Mason also feels that the board of trustees did not take them seriously after spending hundreds of hours putting their report together. They only had 30 minutes to present their findings.

“It seemed like this was not necessarily on top of the list of priorities or at least our report was not,” Mason said.

This was a difficult pill to swallow as both Jones and Mason flew in from out of town to be a part of this meeting.

Hillary Savoie, a 2000 graduate, is from the Capital Region and wanted to support Mason as part of the presentation, but her voice was shut out of the conversation.

“It would be a simple symbolic gesture to say, no of course we welcome you into this room and into this discussion,” Savoie said.

Despite steps of transparency, such as the school releasing a report last month on allegations of sexual abuse, these women say their alma mater needs to take ownership in a meaningful way.

Martha Deeds graduated in 1999 and is very skeptical of what proactive measures, if any, Emma Willard is really taking.

“The appearance is they want to just close the door on this sort of as quickly as possible,” Deeds said. “Every step along the way needs to have a deeper level of engagement and impact.”

Regardless of the final outcome and direction made by Emma Willard, all the task force members are very disappointed in their school.

“There will be no future Emma Willard without some sort of cleaning up of the past,” Kimberly Jones said.

In a statement via Erin Pihlaja, Head of Communications for Emma Williard, the board of trustees commented on the findings of the task force,

“We thank all members of the Emma Willard School community who have offered their support throughout this process and are grateful to the AATF for their presentation to the Board of Trustees.”

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