*This letter was submitted by Todd Phillips, a former EWB member and chapter president. We concur with Todd in all that he writes, and especially when he states, “I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth.”
November 12th, 2020
To the members and leadership of EWB, past and present,
I’m calling on the leadership at EWB to answer for their and the organization’s behavior in regard to the multiple counts of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying that have occurred. The sheer number of complaints is worrying, but the only point more worrying seems to be EWB’s response, in the past and as well as now. They have, and continue to, ignore the wellbeing of the people involved. They have lied and covered up what has actually happened.
Before I go any further, I would like to state that I am surely guilty of some inappropriate behavior. I do not remember any specific instances, but I am open to being called out on these or any other behaviors that caused people discomfort or unease. I will make amends to the best of my ability. I am striving to improve and educate myself every day on topics such as this, and am hoping I will be better in the future. I do not expect any person or organization to be perfect, but I expect them to care. I expect them to make things right to the best of their ability.
The only public response I’m aware of, EWB’s main response to Chelsey in August 2019, is misleading at best, but most likely, it is just full of false statements. It is empty of truth and heart. Chelsey has repeatedly asked for it to be retracted, and regardless of EWB’s intentions (which are also questionable), it is punishment for speaking out, and serves as a warning to others. This is in addition to re-traumatizing Chelsey, and attacking her character.
I don’t want to dwell on too many specific points. The overall meaning can be lost if the argument becomes about specific points and semantics, but I feel I need to give some examples to demonstrate what I’ve said. To begin, Chelsey has flatly denied anything was consensual, let alone being “emphatic that it was consensual” as stated in the response. Abuse cannot be consensual.
As well, it seems to me that all decisions taken were from a purely legal standpoint, and the person was forgotten. In EWB’s statement, their treatment of Chelsey contradicts itself in the same paragraph. EWB states that “we are confident that we acted appropriately and addressed all concerns that she raised in mediation. That said, we regret that she was not offered more acknowledgement and support at the time.” How can you say you acted appropriately and then immediately say you should have given more support? In my opinion, the only way this makes sense is if ‘appropriately’ means ‘legally’.
As well, I don’t have faith that the new policies are enough when they are so EWB-centric, instead of person-centered: “We hope that recent dialogue can provide closure and allow us all to focus on the future.” Unfortunately, as the one at fault, EWB does not get to decide when it’s over. Any suggestion otherwise takes more power away from the victim. Victims decide when the dialogue, when the healing, when the everything is over, not the perpetrators.
I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth, to make the situation right as much as possible for the victims, and to take real action to minimize the chances of something like this happening again, and if it does, ensuring that it will be dealt with appropriately. Person-centered, victim-centered appropriately, not EWB’s current definition of the word.
I stand with Aakhil. I stand with Chelsey. I stand with all victims. I encourage all others, but especially chapters, alumni and leadership, to do the same.
Former EWB Member & Chapter President