Confusion on sexual assault policy widespread

By:
02/27/2014

The GUSA elections have brought to light not only the importance of addressing sexual assault on campus but also the large amount of misinformation and confusion surrounding this issue. The GUSA debates, platforms, and online comments have successfully sparked a dialogue surrounding the topic. They have also, however, served to further confuse students.

In particular, different campaigns’ opinions on Title IX issues at Georgetown have led to sharply contrasting views between tickets. Thomas Lloyd (SFS ‘15) and Jimmy Ramirez’s (COL ‘15) policy point on this issue drew sharp criticism from many commenters on Vox. The policy states that they would “require that the Title IX Coordinator be the sole point person to whom any incident of sexual assault or harassment is reported by the survivor if the survivor intends on pursuing campus action via the Student Code of Conduct.” Students commented on the inadequacies of this policy, ranging from confidentiality to practical issues due to the volume of cases.

Dr. Jeanne Lord, the Title IX coordinator, is legally mandated to investigate and respond to sexual assault cases. Lord, however, would not necessarily be able to keep survivor confidentiality due to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter of Title IX.

Trevor Tezel (SFS ‘15) and Omika Jikaria (SFS ‘15) also believe that Lloyd/Ramirez’s policy is a misinterpretation of Lord’s role. They instead propose increasing the number of advocates, specialists, and confidential counselors in Health Education Services and Counseling and Psychiatric Services. Ben Weiss (COL ‘15) and Sam Greco (SFS ‘15) have similar policy proposals, as they want to add additional confidential resources on campus in addition to a SAPE-trained deputy secretary to address these issues. Such sharp differences in policy show candidates themselves must take initiative to fully understand its complexities.

Candidates have also been criticized for not being SAPE trained, which is hypocritical for platforms such as Weiss/Greco’s, which suggests that all GUSA members complete sexual assault training.

Even Singer/Silkman’s suggestions to add a sexual assault component to NSO and for peer educators to visit freshman floors for short training and discussion programs was met with criticism, as Peterson says SAPE coordinators have their own outreach programs and are already adding a sexual assault component to NSO. Though some students laud GUSA’s commitment to the problem, Peterson believes GUSA should focus on exerting its authority to help increase the budgets of these groups so they can carry out what they have started.

There is no single answer as to how to prevent and address sexual misconduct on campus, and GUSA campaigns have fostered a campus-wide discussion on the issue. This dialogue could have served students better had candidates been more informed in regard to their own proposed policies and the University’s existing policies. Just as campaigns cannot use the term “sexual assault” simply as a buzzword, students cannot debate the issue without first knowing the facts.

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