A Call for Reckoning over Sexual Assault

A Call for Reckoning over Sexual Assault

By:
09/13/2018

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

This Tuesday, Sahil Nair (SFS ’19) resigned from his position as president of the GUSA Executive, after Vice President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19), chief of staff Aaron Bennett (COL ’19), and a number of other members of the executive resigned their positions (resignations which all but Nair have since rescinded). While Nair has made no comment regarding his resignation, the members of his administration cited “the present environment within the organization.” In a public meeting Tuesday night, multiple GUSA senators referenced allegations of sexual assault against Nair. The Voice cannot confirm the allegations made during the meeting. Nair and Rahman appeared on the Voice’s masthead during the 2015-2016 academic year, and the Voice endorsed their campaign in the 2018 GUSA executive election.

At the same meeting, multiple senators alleged that Bennett admitted that he was informed of “stories,” in his words, of sexual misconduct by Nair in February. These revelations create an environment of distrust surrounding the current GUSA Executive and exemplify the staff’s inability to effectively lead the student body. In light of this, this editorial board calls for the resignation of the entire GUSA Executive and for the university to devote the proper amount of resources to combating sexual assault on campus.

While failing to effectively deal with allegations of sexual assault is much more serious than the general insularity of our student government, which we have noted in the past, this scandal further exacerbates a growing rift between GUSA and the student body it professes to represent. The Georgetown community deserves better representation in student government than those who may be complicit in the administration of a leader accused by GUSA senators of sexual assault.

For members of the campaign to have known of the “stories” about Nair in February and have done nothing is a disgrace. In February, the month Bennett said that he and Rahman were informed of the allegations against Nair, the campaign published a widely-circulated video. Titled “It’s On Us,” it claimed that the incoming administration would champion issues of sexual consent if elected to office. Coming from the campaign, the video is clearly hypocritical, although its message remains true: We students must hold ourselves and our peers accountable in creating a campus environment free of sexual assault and misconduct.

Holding our peers accountable for their actions is necessary to improve the atmosphere surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct, both on campus and in society. But the primary consideration in these situations should always be the concerns of the survivors of such allegations. The university’s resources are insufficient to guarantee this, and so we call on the university to hire a full-time Title IX Coordinator.

Before holding Tuesday night’s emergency meeting, organizers did not consult a single survivor and were not in contact with any survivors. In a meeting streamed online by multiple publications, including the Voice, and therefore viewed by students throughout the campus community, GUSA senators repeatedly claimed to care about the privacy and concerns of survivors above all else. But holding the meeting in a public forum without proper consultation was misguided and inappropriate, and in the future, such discussions should take into account the wishes of those affected most.

While its high-profile nature ensures that it will gain attention on campus, the issue should force a reckoning over the broader issue of sexual assault on campus. On Aug. 31, a group of club leaders and individual students penned an open letter to the university which raises serious problems in the university’s Title IX Office. In June, the university’s first full-time Title IX Coordinator, Laura Cutway, left the position in a move that was not announced to students. Since then, the position has been filled in the interim by Samantha Berner, who is also the university’s Title IX investigator. This shows a troubling lack of transparency by the university and calls into question Georgetown’s commitment to combating sexual assault on campus.

By failing to fill the role in a timely manner and having one person hold two different full-time jobs in the same office, the university is failing in this commitment, made worse by the fact that the first few weeks of school are a time of increased risk for campus sexual assault. Indeed, reports of sexual assault on campus and in the city have been on the rise. If there was ever a time for a fully-equipped and staffed Title IX office, it is certainly now.

If Georgetown is committed to the safety of its students, then the university must be equipped with the resources to combat sexual assault, investigate allegations, and support survivors. The university’s current lack of a full-time Title IX Coordinator means that it is failing this commitment. Filling this role wouldn’t entirely solve the issue of sexual assault at Georgetown, but it is an essential first step in creating an environment where students can live and study safely.

Confidential Resources

Health Education Services (HES): sarp@georgetown.edu

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS): 202-687-6985

D.C. Rape Crisis Center Hotline: 202-333-RAPE (7273)

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): online.rainn.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Nonconfidential Resources

Georgetown University Resource Center: sexualassault.georgetown.edu/resourcecenter

Title IX Online Reporting Form: georgetown.protocall.info/incident-report

 

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