Letter to the Editor: firsthand account from alumni and professor of Cathie Young Selleck ’55 controversy

25

Dear Oxy Community,

We are surprised that President Veitch is honoring Board of Trustees member Cathie Young Selleck ‘55 as part of the “Women in Leadership” theme at commencement this year by including her as one of four speakers and “distinguished leaders,” given her inappropriate behavior toward Oxy students and alums at a Survivor’s Vigil in 2014. The three of us were there and this is our firsthand account of what happened.

In 2014, a group of about 15 students and faculty held a silent Survivor’s Vigil, organized by the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC), outside of a Board of Trustees dinner taking place in Booth Hall. This was the second year OSAC had gathered outside a trustee dinner to protest the administration’s mishandling of sexual assault cases, in particular, a failure to stand up for survivors by properly punishing assailants, adjudicating cases and reporting assaults. Many of the trustees exiting the dinner were openly dismissive of the vigil, shaking their heads at us and muttering words under their breath as they walked by. Two board members — Steve Hinchliffe ‘55 and Selleck — engaged vigil participants in bullying behavior, repeatedly mocking our complaints about the presence of rapists on campus and being angrily dismissive of and condescending to our both heartfelt and statistically-driven responses to their stated questions.

Both Hinchliffe and Selleck loudly denied that Oxy had a sexual assault problem. Hinchliffe demanded that students tell him the names of rapists, and Selleck said that rape at Oxy was just “he said, she said.” Selleck raised her voice at student Ray Buckner ‘15, a sexual assault survivor, when Buckner disagreed with Selleck about sexual assault issues on campus, including: statistical percentages of rape and sexual assault on Oxy’s campus, Oxy’s failure to enact a zero-tolerance policy on cases of sexual assault and rape, the institution’s rate of permanent expulsions of students found guilty of rape and sexual assault and problems with Oxy’s appeals process which resulted in assailants returning to campus. Upon leaving, Selleck became physically aggressive at a recent Oxy alum, shoving a camera in her face. There was plenty of room for Selleck to exit the location without hitting anyone, and every OSAC person who witnessed the event came away with the same impression — that Selleck had intentionally shoved the Oxy alum in a moment of anger to stop the alum from filming.

Since that time, we have heard arguments that Selleck could not have shoved anyone because she’s elderly, or that she tripped into the alum. The first argument plays upon sexist notions of older women as frail, and the second simply didn’t happen. Selleck didn’t trip. We all saw her walk up to an alum who was off the path.

At a recent faculty meeting, and in a meeting with OSAC students, school officials have said there is no evidence that this 2014 incident occurred. We are the evidence. We saw it with our own eyes. These recent assertions are troubling and simply untrue, given that Board of Trustees President Chris Calkins ‘67 spoke with multiple witnesses who confirmed this account in a 2014 “investigation” he led into the events. (The only witness who offered a different account was Hinchliffe.)

Selleck has never owned up to her actions. She has offered no apologies for her behavior. At that vigil, she worked against student and faculty efforts for a safer and more just Oxy community. In sum, these are not actions of courage and leadership, but of cowardice and oppression.

A person who berates, bullies and assaults Oxy students and alums does not deserve to be honored by the college, but especially not a member of the Board of Trustees tasked with the mission of “exercising the highest level of loyalty to, and care for, the College and its constituencies.”

 

Sincerely,

Ray Buckner ‘15

Andy Eichar ‘16

Dr. Caroline Heldman, Politics Department