Nickey Jafari’s initial reaction to the Twitter account Drake Students for Justice was happiness.
“I love this!” Jafari said as she scrolled through the anonymous Twitter account’s feed for the first time during a phone interview.
In a Facebook post in November, Jafari accused political science professor Mahmoud Hamad of sexual harassing her while she was a student at Drake. Since her public accusation, Drake has been silent on the investigation and accusations regarding Hamad.
In response to this silence, Drake Students for Justice was born. It first tweeted on April 9, asking the administration to do more, such as releasing a statement about Hamad’s current status at Drake, increasing resources for sexual assault survivors, offering support and guidance for students whose education plans were disrupted and recurring mandatory sexual misconduct prevention trainings for faculty and staff members.
Jafari also expressed her disappointment with how Drake administration has handled things, with the exception of Katie Overberg, whom she said she has a good relationship with.
“I’ve felt kind of alone, and I also feel, as a survivor, personally, I feel pretty unsupported by Drake’s administration, outside of Kathryn Overberg and the Title IX office specifically,” Jafari said. “I would’ve expected Drake to be in better contact with me and far more apologetic that I had this experience at their institution.”
Jafari said that Drake making a statement wouldn’t hurt anyone except for Hamad himself and that releasing a statement would only help Drake’s reputation.
“Without a statement from Drake, the possibility that this man could attain another position at another academic institution is increased,” Jafari said.
Drake Students for Justice said in a tweet that if the Drake administration would not release an official statement about the investigation into Hamad by April 16, then “… we will continue to directly address faculty and staff regarding our concerns.”
At midnight on April 16, Drake Students for Justice started tweeting their email correspondences with Drake Provost Sue Mattison. As of April 19, Drake has yet to release a statement.
Mattison said in an email to the Times-Delphic, “Professor Hamad has resigned from Drake effective June 1. As you noted in the TD article last fall, he has no teaching assignments. He remains on a leave of absence through May.”
Jafari said she is aware of the closing details of the investigation.
Because Drake is a private university, Mattison said she is unable to discuss whether or not Hamad remains on the Drake payroll.
Mattison has reached out to Drake Students for Justice through email to set up a meeting in person. Those running the account refused to meet in person.
“I have offered multiple times to meet with the ‘Drake Students for Justice’ to address concerns, but the individual(s) responsible for the request refused to meet with me,” Mattison told the Times-Delphic in an email. “The individual(s) running the Twitter account have not indicated any substantiated reason for not meeting with me. Title IX cases are bound by law to protect the confidentiality of the student who comes forward with a complaint, and not to share confidential and personal information to anonymous student demands.”
A student representing the Twitter account told the Times-Delphic that those running the account wish to stay anonymous because they want to not only focus on this issue, but to continue to exist and keep holding the administration accountable.
Besides a statement, the Drake Students for Justice Twitter account requested “resources for students whose safety and well-being have been compromised in result of their interactions with Professor Mahmoud Hamad.”
“Mental health resources and other support services are commonly extended to any student who is experiencing challenges, including students who file complaints against a Drake employee or a fellow student,” Mattison said.
The Twitter account also asked for “support and guidance for students whose academic plans have been disrupted by the absence of a qualified instructor.” The Middle Eastern regional studies path within the international relations major was noted as an affected area of study.
“I have not heard concerns from students about an impact on their academic careers,” Mattison responded in another email to the Times-Delphic. “If any student is having academic issues of any kind, they can talk with their advisor or the associate dean of the college, who are committed to serving all students and helping them get through their programs of study.”
The final demand made by the Drake Students for Justice Twitter account is “recurring mandatory sexual misconduct prevention trainings for faculty and staff using up-to-date and accurate resources.” Mattison responded by saying faculty and staff receive online prevention training when they’re hired and that the Title IX Coordinator and Violence Prevention Coordinator provide education throughout the year.
Jafari said the demands made by this account are reasonable.
“I would actually support this thread (by) adding a fifth demand, that if a professor found in violation of the sexual misconduct policy, that counseling is not an acceptable minimum punishment, and that will be consistent with a university that values the rights of its students, and protecting what is in the student body’s best interests,” Jafari said.
Hannah Shell, another alumna, attended meetings with Jafari when she had to go see Hamad, who was Jafari’s advisor at the time.
“They definitely need to apologize about how they handled it, because they have been unsupportive, unresponsive,” she said. “Certainly the way they’ve handled it would discourage other students that might be in similar situations, so I think they need to make a statement about how they’re going to take things in the future.”
Other students have expressed similar concerns about how the administration has communicated with students since the accusations against Hamad were made public.
“It kind of just creates a little trepidation,” said Emily Bauer, co-president of Student Activists for Gender Equity (SAGE). “As a woman or as somebody who is more likely to be subjected to this kind of situation, seeing the way that things are kind of handled under-wraps and without complete openness can make you kind of less trusting of people in power. I’ve heard a little bit of that sentiment going around and wishing for honesty and openness.”
Dissatisfaction with how administration has responded in this situation has motivated two students to coordinate a demonstration on campus this week. Sophomore Ren Culliney and junior Isabelle Barrett created the Facebook event “It Could Be Any of Us.”
“We want to show the administration how their lack of a statement regarding sexual predators on campus leaves students feeling unsafe, and as if anyone can be a victim of violence on this campus by someone in a position of authority,” the Facebook event says.
Those who want to get involved can message either Culliney or Barrett on Facebook to receive a black armband with “It Could Be Any of Us” printed on it. The organizers are asking participants to wear their armbands on April 28.
“I’m hoping it’s an open conversation and that administration will see that sexual assaults on campus are not isolated incidents,” Culliney aid. “They’re a symptom of a larger culture that allows that to happen. And we need to address that … We definitely considered Relays in it in terms of it being a really big, energetic time and I think it’s a time where we can make a really big impact if people notice this.”
Many students expressed surprise when they learned that Hamad had resigned, effective June 1, in the emails between Mattison and the Twitter account that were posted online.
“I was surprised because nothing had been said,” Bauer said. “We get so many emails from the University a day, you’d think that maye they could’ve addressed his status as a professor in some kind of capacity. So I was surprised when I read that.”
Culliney said that some students feel they can’t trust the administration.
“(The administration says), ‘Well, you can come talk to us if you’re concerned.’ It’s like, ‘Well, we’re concerned because we feel like we can’t talk to you.’ So it’s a vicious sort of cycle,” she said.
Culliney and Bauer said they understand that certain details cannot be disclosed to campus for legal reasons, but that’s not what students are asking for.
“Ultimately, I don’t want all of the little details,” Culliney said. “I just think it would be nice for the administration to say, ‘This situation happened. We’re aware. We’re discussing it internally.’ Because we don’t even get that, and that concerns me.”