Students lead a dialogue on potential sexual violence mitigation efforts

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Following the announcement of a suspected drug at Sigma Phi Epsilon and the subsequent Not My Campus protest last semester, students are engaged in dialogue with members of the administration to discuss potential reforms to support survivors and mitigate sexual misconduct on campus.

Survey

Junior Robab Vaziri created the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) Satisfaction Survey analyze the experiences of survivors of sexual violence on campus and in the investigative process. OIE members worked with Vaziri to create the survey questions, but do not monitor the survey results. The survey also collects feedback from survivors on what reforms they would like to see at the University.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Vaziri explained that she created the survey as a research project after being investigated by the OIE his first year and taking an interest in the disciplinary process on different university campuses.

“I was reading articles in legal journals… There was a lot of concern that these university disciplinary proceedings regarding sexual violence are shrouded in secrecy. There is no public information on how they are conducted,” she said.

So far, 20 people have responded to the survey, including undergraduates, graduate students, and staff. According to complainants who responded to the survey, respondents to their surveys included undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members.

Vaziri explained his goals for the investigation. She hopes the results can be shared to draw attention to the lack of public dissemination of information regarding specific OIE investigations, emphasizing that all published data should be non-identifying.

“It’s a systemic issue. Every campus in the country is doing it. They’re not sharing information about their investigation,” she said. by the OIE of anonymized public data is something we want to endorse as a university.”

Vice President of Communications Andrew Green wrote in an email to The News-Letter that the OIE publish annual reports containing statistics on investigations. the 2020 report is available online; according to Green, the 2021 report will be released this semester. Additionally, Green noted that the University also publishes reports on its campus climate surveys on sexual misconduct.

COURTESY OF ROBAB VARIZI.

This word card represents when survey respondents experienced sexual violence.

Incidents reported in Vaziri’s survey occurred between 2015 and 2020. They occurred in classrooms, residence halls, other university buildings, off-campus accommodation, on social media and by e-mail and in fraternity houses.

When asked if disciplinary action should be taken against Greek life organizations, 10 of the survey respondents said that only Greek organizations found responsible for misconduct should be disciplined, while one respondent believes that all fraternities in the University should be abolished and three of the respondents stated that all Greek organizations in the University should be abolished. Five of the respondents chose not to answer this question and one indicated “other”.

COURTESY OF ROBAB VARIZI.

Vaziri created this word map to display the locations of incidents as reported by survey respondents.

Vaziri reflected on these findings, pointing out that survivors of sexual violence at Greek events who responded to the survey also discussed the role of alcohol in those events.

“Respondents who survived sexual violence at events in Greece…wanted to hold individual organizations accountable. This is particularly relevant if we are interested in what the survivors of these events in Greek life really want,” she said. “It appears that a significant number of these events involve alcohol consumption, indicating potential issues with the drinking culture… We may need to reevaluate the effectiveness of our sober monitors.”

Potential changes

Junior Eleanor Franklin, co-director of the Sexual Assualt Resource Unit (SARU), discussed SARU approaches and how the lack of institutional control presents challenges for effecting policy change in an interview with The News-Letter.

“[At] SARU … our focus is quite broad as we are the only organization in the University doing sexual assault advocacy work,” they said. “A lot of our mitigation efforts tend to focus on promoting the culture of consent on campus among the student body. What’s really frustrating is that we don’t have a lot of real institutional control to make changes. Much of what we can do is more about changing attitudes [and] culture change.

Franklin attended several meetings with members of the administration as well as leaders of the Not My Campus protest last semester and discussed streamlining the process for responding to sexual misconduct cases. Currently, files must pass through several departments.

Vaziri pointed to some problems this poses, including survivors having to tell their stories multiple times and investigator burnout.

“My investigation lasted about 190 or 200 days. It’s very long. It seemed to me that my investigator was somehow exhausted. They shouldn’t have to deal with a lot of really traumatic cases without having breaks,” she said. “Overworked investigators can seem more insensitive and we don’t want that when dealing with really sensitive cases.”

According to many people who responded to Vaiziri’s survey and students interviewed by The News-Letter, delays have occurred because services such as the OIE are underfunded and understaffed.

Green highlighted the University’s commitment to increasing IOE staffing and funding.

“Over the past few years, the University has made a strong commitment to increasing OIE staff. We are currently fully staffed and have had no disruptions in staffing our investigators for over a year,” he wrote. “In the event that our workflow exceeds our internal capacity, the OIE is able to quickly partner with experienced external lawyers who act as OIE investigators and apply OIE policies and procedures. GOOSE. We also consult regularly with our team to address any signs of burnout among our investigators. »

He also explained why cases often have long durations.

“Partly due to staff increases, our case resolution times have steadily decreased over the past few years, although sexual misconduct cases can take longer than other investigations for a host of reasons,” he wrote. “Some delays (such as certain procedural deadlines established by Title IX) are completely beyond our control, regardless of the number of investigators we have. Other delays are related to the unavailability of the complainant, the respondent or witnesses. And still other delays can be attributed to the complexity of the cases that are reported to our office.

According to Green, several measures have been implemented to address sexual misconduct on campus: the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life includes information about sexual misconduct during orientations, Reduction Week of misdeeds takes place during the spring semester, the OIE meets with Chapter Heads to discuss the Title IX process and Pillarsa continuing education program, includes sexual misconduct content and resources.

Franklin pointed out that the distribution of drink-testing kits has been suggested to allow students to test their own drinks at parties, but stressed that this is not the only action the University should take.

“Any structured provision of alcohol testing to students essentially puts the onus on students to protect themselves from drugs. It will look really bad if that is the University’s initial response… There is had repeated attempts by survivors to have the University take action against the organizations through which they were drugged,” they said. “The University has continually ignored these people… [If] the first thing that [administrators] to do when they finally take action is to have people take alcohol tests basically to protect themselves… Obviously that’s not acceptable.

Franklin pitched the idea of ​​having a drink-test monitor at parties as a more productive reform. They believe this would be effective as it would also result in recordings of test results and drug use at Greek events.

“Something we might consider being productive would be to have a designated drink-testing monitor at Greek events in the same way that all Greek events must have sober party monitors,” they said. “It would be someone from the organization who would be appointed to test the drinks before they were distributed to people… There should be records of the number of drinks served. [and if all] of them are tested.

Robab Vaziri is a contributing writer for The News-Letter. She was not involved in reporting, writing or editing this article.

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