Some students feel that the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Advisory Committee (SAMAC) has not made enough concrete progress following an email SAMAC sent to Georgetown faculty, staff, and students on Nov. 2 to provide an update on their investigation into sexual assault on campus. This update comes after students wrote an open letter in August demanding more transparency, as well as the immediate filling of the current Title IX coordinator vacancy, from SAMAC.
The email stated that SAMAC is currently working on creating a Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), which was recommended following the 2016 Campus Climate survey. It also announced that the university will conduct a new Campus Climate Survey to gather new data and evaluate progress in February 2019.
Kory Stuer (COL ’19) was one of the five students who wrote the August open letter and is a founding member of Students Taking Action against Interpersonal Violence (STAIV), a new group which aims to make Georgetown a more survivor-centric community. He said this email, while seemingly a positive sign from the administration, actually showed how little SAMAC is willing to reveal about its investigation.
“Not a lot of information is one of the important takeaways,” Stuer said. “There still wasn’t that much transparency, even though this was aiming towards it, and there are almost no timelines included.”
The lack of information caused Stuer to doubt SAMAC’s dedication. “Saying you’re working on something is not the same as actually working on it, and that’s one of the messages that’s coming through really strongly for me, from this update.”
Hanna Chan (COL ’19), a member of STAIV, also felt disappointed about the contents of the email.
“I would say that they are being intentionally misleading in that the only concrete thing they can name as progress is bystander training,” Chan said. “The reason why they can’t be more specific about examples is because they don’t have any.”
According to a written statement from Vincent WinklerPrins and Jennifer Woolard, co-chairs of SAMAC, the organization is working to implement the recommendations from the original survey.
“In response to the findings from Georgetown’s first ever climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct in 2016, a task force comprised of more than 70 faculty, staff and students issued a report with a series of recommendations to address sexual misconduct within our community,” the statement read. “Review and implementation of those recommendations have been at the core of SAMAC’s work for the past year.”
SAMAC hopes to continue this work through different avenues, pointing to the creation of the the CCRT as both following the recommendation and establishing a new structure for SAMAC.
“A group of Georgetown faculty, staff, and students, as well as experts and leaders from outside our community will compose the CCRT and it will meet regularly to assess, plan and monitor campus prevention and response efforts,” the statement read.
Stuer explained his frustration at having to click through various hyperlinks in order to find something that looked like a list of proposed actions and SAMAC’s progress thus far, and said that the university could have made it much easier to access. The list, which measures the progress of Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force recommendations as of Nov. 1, labels many of the initiatives as “in process” or “in development,” which Stuer said was unsatisfactory to concerned students.
“What does ‘in process’ mean?” Stuer said. “I’m still not really getting anything near comprehensive information.”
“They actually haven’t listed anything that they’ve done,” Stuer said. The list does indicate some items as “complete,” including the implementation of mandatory bystander intervention education and a “mandatory faculty and staff respect refresher.”
Stuer explained that he does not understand why the university is so reluctant to share information, whether positive or negative, about their findings. He added that he was aware that Georgetown had completed focus groups with students a year ago.
“In the interest of transparency, and also just from a PR perspective, I don’t know why they wouldn’t be sharing that,” Stuer said. “If they’re not sharing the good things, they’re not definitely not showing the bad things.”
According to a university spokesperson, there are 25 SAMAC members, including seven students representing undergraduates, law, and medical students, and are appointed to SAMAC by student groups such as GUSA, Grad Gov, and SAPE. Staff members are appointed by leaders from the university offices with membership for having “appropriate expertise and portfolio to represent them on SAMAC.”
Rosemary Kilkenny, one of the signatories of the email, wrote in a statement to the Voice that the second climate survey will strive to provide more insights into what the university can do to improve its approach to sexual assault prevention.
“The second survey will include most of the same questions as the first to provide us with reliable data comparisons,” read the statement, “but it will include refinements to improve the user experience and provide insights about how we can strengthen our efforts to prevent and address sexual misconduct.”
Chan explained that she thinks the objectives of SAMAC need to be expanded to go beyond bystander training, which has been a focus of the university thus far.
“It isn’t about how well someone knows how to say ‘no,’ or how well someone can protect themselves, it’s about the fact that people don’t know boundaries, and people are perpetrators,” Chan said. “I think we really need to rethink our prevention framework especially for Georgetown.”
Stuer said that the university needs to better reach out to students and be transparent in meaningful ways because students want to be a part of the ongoing dialogue about sexual assault prevention.
“At the end of the day, students want Georgetown to be better, we believe Georgetown can be better, we just need to see it,” Stuer said. “They’re not giving us a clear indication that they’re willing to work with us as partners.”