Letter: Thanks to Eagle, DA for response to Simon's Rock incident

Posted

To the editor:

This past Saturday, Nov. 16, The Berkshire Eagle reported that the district attorney's office dropped the investigation on the alleged assault on a female student of color at Bard College at Simon's Rock on Sept. 27. ("DA drops investigation into alleged assault at Bard College at Simon's Rock") I have followed the case closely, being that I was a faculty member at Simon's Rock at the time, and then on Oct. 7, submitted my resignation in protest over the administration's handling of the crisis unleashed by the assault reported by the student. But those concerns are not why I write today.

I am writing to express my appreciation for how The Berkshire Eagle and the DA's office handled these difficult weeks. Contrary to what students at Simon's Rock have been told, the paper and the DA's office are not the enemy. Wish it were that easy, but racism can't be fought by pointing fingers at institutions outside one's own.

I am grateful to Heather Bellow for going above and beyond in her efforts to try to hear students' perspectives and feelings about racism at the college and in the larger Berkshire community. When she was attacked for that, she didn't give up, and instead talked to her editors, who authorized an extraordinary invitation for Simon's Rock students of color to speak up and even write their own column.

This invitation was made publicly in the Saturday Nov. 9 edition of the paper. ("Our Opinion: Simon's Rock students, we want to hear you") What an amazing opportunity! And, as far as I know, the invitation was not accepted. We may guess the reasons, and I suspect they may be beyond the students' control. I am grateful to the editors of The Berkshire Eagle for the generous opportunity given Simon's Rock students, even if it was not accepted.

And I am grateful to District Attorney Andrea Harrington, who answered my difficult questions about this case asked at the NAACP meeting in North Adams in October with grace and honesty. She shared what she could and when she couldn't say more, she found ways to express compassion, nonetheless. I was also moved by her office's decision to drop the case, rather than make it even more difficult for all involved. Whatever happened that day, only the student who reported the assault will know.

There have been no winners and there are no criminals here. The DA's office was wise to bring the case to a conclusion without causing further injury to a community already deeply harmed.

Julia Kirst,

Pittsfield

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