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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

June 24, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Community cannot dismiss accusations

As an IC graduate I read the article about the uncontested sexual abuse charges against Shirley Collado, and the defensive reaction online to the article, with concern. Why does the student body and college leadership have such uncritical support for Collado when there is substantial evidence that she hurt someone? Is the story of Collado’s accuser not being considered because she was under psychiatric care? Why else shouldn’t the IC community at least be curious enough to ask questions about what happened? Should the reaction to any sexual assault survivor’s story be dismissed in the way this case is being dismissed at IC, especially one so well documented? Is the Me Too movement only for people who don’t bear the stigma of a mental health diagnosis?

I graduated from the Park School with a television-radio concentration before producing and directing shows for a host of networks and platforms including Discovery, Science, VICE, and Broadway.com, and I won an Emmy for producing a documentary series while working at NBC. The stress of extremely long hours, constant travelling, and often dangerous conditions contributed to my own hospitalization for bipolar depression. During my years in the mental health system I had to navigate abusive behavior from several therapists. I would expect the college that I have been so proud to represent throughout my career would believe me if I decided to share my experiences with our Ithaca College community.
 
Mental health care is especially important for college students. More than 25 percent of college students have a diagnosable mental illness and have been treated in the past year, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness. And 33 percent of students have contemplated suicide, according to The Center For Collegiate Mental Health.
 
As an academic institution, Ithaca College is also a health care provider responsible for mental health services for the student body. This means ensuring the health and safety of all students, including those who suffer from mental illness. I fear that the students who are most impacted by Collado’s case, those suffering from mental illness on campus, may not be in a position to advocate for themselves, especially with Collado’s supporters fervently dismissing the case on social media.
 
If Ithaca College wants to support students, with mental illness administrators need to make it crystal clear that they believe victims of sexual assault, even if they have mental health diagnoses. Ithaca College cannot expect us to trust therapists and medical staff with our most painful traumas if, when we have something inconvenient to say, we are immediately dismissed.
 
Jesse Zook Mann
Class of 2002