On Monday, President Roth released a summary of the Sexual Violence Task Force report, compiled by a group of students, faculty members, administrators, and representatives from Public Safety and the Middletown Police Department. The committee’s recommendations include the creation of a new position at the Office of Behavioral Services (OBHS), increased training in sexual violence response protocol for students, faculty and staff, and the appointment of a team to investigate the possibility of creating a Women’s/Gender Center at Davison Health Center.
“Last spring there was a lot of student action surrounding sexual violence and incidents that were happening on campus,” said Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern Eliza Gordon ’12. “I think the administration really listened to that, and that’s why [the task force] was convened.”
The issue of sexual violence on campus was brought to the forefront of student attention on April 16, when Joanna Bourain ’12 submitted a Wespeak entitled “Wesleyan’s Great, Unless You Get Raped.” A separate Wespeak, signed by 536 members of the University community, called for the creation of a position dedicated to addressing sexual violence on campus. A group of Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members and other students subsequently wrote a report with recommendations for how the University’s policies and resources related to sexual violence could be improved.
The Sexual Violence Task Force was compiled last spring by Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships Sonia Mañjon and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley, and convened in its entirety four times over the course of the fall semester. Four subcommittees were also formed, which focused on staffing and resources, education and prevention, policy, reporting and adjudication, and community resources and collaboration.
The task force recommends filling the currently vacant WesWELL coordinator position with “a person experienced in sexual violence response/prevention,” and the creation of a new position within OBHS, who would provide support to survivors of sexual violence and oversee education programs.
“This person, who has confidential status because of their job as a psychiatrist, would be the point person for sexual assault cases,” Gordon said. “That person would be specifically known throughout campus as the per son to go to talk to, somebody who is very specifically trained in response, not to say that the rest of OBHS isn’t, but to be kind of an advocate.”
The report also calls for a review of current educational outreach programs related to sexual violence, mandatory attendance by all students at sexual violence education trainings during orientation and other times throughout the year, training for faculty, staff, and students leaders on their role in reporting sexual violence, and required special education initiatives for student athletes and members of fraternities and sororities.
Jared Courville ’11 objected to the task force’s suggestion of specific programs for athletes and participants in Greek life.
“It seems like the people on the task force hold negative stereotypes about athletes and frat brothers,” said Courville, which is a member of the swim team.” If they want to provide mandatory training, it shouldn’t be required of only a specific group––it should be a campus-wide initiative.”
Gordon said that the decision to require special training for athletes and members of fraternities and sororities resulted in part from data showing that sexual violence occurs more commonly in group situations.
“Nationally-based statistics show that there are higher rates of sexual violence among big groups of people: a fraternity, a society, a team,” Gordon said. “I personally believe that that kind of training should be mandatory to everybody on campus. It doesn’t matter what group you belong to, I think it’s really important for everybody to be on the same page.”
The report also called for the creation of a Women’s/Gender Center, which, according to members of the task force, used to exist in some form as part of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department.
“The idea is that there could be a space where there could be a resource library, having it in [the Davidson Health Center] because all of the other resources are here,” Gordon said. “The idea of a physical space is really important to a lot of people, a gathering space. It’s still very much being visualized.”
According to Gordon, Roth met with the task force once they compiled the report to discuss their findings.
“He was asking us a lot of questions, he was probing into specific areas that he wanted more clarification for, then all in all was really accepting of the recommendations, which is great,” Gordon said.
Task force member Camara Awkward-Rich ’11 expressed satisfaction with the report and the administration’s response.
“I think it’s really good,” Awkward-Rich said. “Last year a lot of people were really frustrated by how slow things moved, but I think Roth seemed really down with implementing a lot of the stuff we recommended and I think that’s a good thing.”