"Nothing Amiss": the Far Reaches of Scott Backer

Priya Swaminathan

Priya Swaminathan

This article contains a personal retelling of sensitive information pertaining to a sexual assault and an attempt to solicit a minor to perform sexual acts. The author is anonymous.

I see my rapist in Scott Backer and I see Scott Backer in my rapist.

When people on campus found out my rapist was a serial abuser, he hired a team of lawyers to cover it up. When the Boston Globe informed the Administration that Scott Backer was a sexual predator, they hired a team of lawyers to cover it up.

When I filed a report against my rapist, he promptly withdrew and transferred to a different institution. When Vermont Academy uncovered allegations that Scott Backer had sexually harassed a student, he was promptly fired and transferred to a different institution.

When I met with the Title IX coordinator about my rapist, she said that because he was no longer a student my case would probably be fruitless. When students met with the administration to voice their concerns that having Scott Backer adjudicate Title IX cases delegitimized the system, the University responded that there was “nothing amiss.”

When my rapist transferred from the University, the Administration made no record of the allegations against him. He can do this again at a different institution and face no consequence once more. 

Scott Backer finally faced consequences for being a serial abuser, but I am not sure my rapist ever will.

“I think a lot about the other times you’ve done this, too. I know for a fact you have done this before, and I know just as certainly that you’ll do it again. You’ve learned to avoid consequences so impressively, allowed yourself to never experience even a shred of accountability or responsibility.”

This quote is from a letter to my rapist, a letter that I wrote and will never deliver. Yet these statements could apply equally to Scott Backer. Both my rapist and Scott Backer are men empowered by systems that encourage their violent misogyny. Both men were empowered by the dangerous negligence of the Administration.

Are you surprised? Because I’m not. The history of the University is one that prioritizes men like this over the rest of us. You’ve probably heard the stories about the University’s first black student, Charles B. Ray, in 1832. How he was viciously mistreated by his white classmates. How the administration did nothing, then barred black students from attending the University again for decades after. You’ve probably heard the stories about co-education. How the University briefly allowed women in 1872, did nothing to deal with the rampant sexism they were facing, and quickly reversed the decision. You’ve probably heard the stories about how Judd Hall used to house a museum filled with the stolen remains and possessions of Wangunk Native Americans--the same people indigenous to the land the University occupied. You’ve probably heard the stories about how the men our buildings are named after were complicit in the Opium Wars, The American Colonization Society, and other equally frightening causes. The legacy of these men is everywhere on this campus. Worse yet, the modern versions of these men are everywhere on this campus. A centuries old legacy of racism, sexism, classism, queerphobia, transphobia, and ableism lives on in our administration and Board of Trustees.

Institutions like the University aren’t meant to serve the rest of us; they never were. But even still, every new grievance cuts even deeper.