Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault releases 2015 recommendations

by Rachel Favors | 11/4/15 8:49pm

The Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault called for increased campus preventive and response measures for sexual assault in its 2015 recommendations, released last week to the Dartmouth community.

Following the release, SPCSA held a community forum last Thursday, where the recommendations and possible barriers to their promotion were discussed, SPCSA vice chair Shanet Hinds ’16 said.

SPCSA was pleased by the implementation of two of its major 2014 recommendations — the introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive four-year sexual violence prevention and education program in the College’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative and the conduction of the Association of American Universities campus climate survey on sexual assault with publicized results, SPCSA member John Damianos ’16 said.

In contrast to last year’s 21 recommendations, SPCSA members decided this year to focus on five to convey clearer goals that the committee, administrators and students could work with, Damianos said.

The 2015 recommendations are as follows: regular responder workshops for all first-year faculty advisors, faculty members leading off-campus programs and Safety and Security officers; providing financial support covering the full cost of long-term counseling for student survivors of sexual violence; providing greater avenues for feedback from the different entities who respond to and adjudicate sexual assault; providing incentives for the integration of sexual assault peer advocates and responder workshops into the Greek system and residential housing and requiring all Greek Letter Organizations and Societies organizations to have a sexual misconduct policy and to have members undergo a mandatory sexual violence prevention education program.

“I am fully behind SPCSA engaging the entire community in everything we can do to reduce sexual violence,” special assistant to the College President and SPCSA administrative advisor Laura Hercod said.

The SPCSA recommendations are mainly formulated by the students on the committee. The administrative advisors simply help the committee reach its goal by providing support to the students, Hercod said.

In drafting the recommendations, SPCSA utilized research and community feedback gathered at the Committee’s annual symposium and in discussions and interviews with campus groups about their concerns with sexual assault, Hinds said.

The primary considerations in this year’s recommendations were prevention and response, rather than the creation of more education programs on sexual assault, since the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative mandated the creation of such a program, Damianos said.

Damianos said the Committee also examined the previous year’s recommendations to recycle back some important proposals that were not implemented and to find areas where different needs of the Dartmouth community had not been addressed.

“One of the big goals for this year was looking at sexual assault in minority communities,” Damianos said. “We know from data and from hearing people’s experiences that sexual assault looks different in minority communities than it does in a heteronormative narrative.”

The Committee’s recommendations represent best practices in a national context, founding member of Faculty Against Rape, a volunteer-run thinktank concerned with increasing the role of faculty in preventing sexual assaults on college campuses, Simona Sharoni said.

“The recommendations do not require a lot of the administration and represent a shift from the top-down approach that administrators have taken,” Sharoni said.

Sharoni said she thinks the students deserve an apology from administrators for failing to provide students with the safe and supportive environment they were promised by the College. Overall, she said the students have done an outstanding job with seeking to improve campus sexual assault prevention and resource measures,.

DartmouthChange co-founder Susy Struble ’93 echoed Sharoni’s sentiments about the recommendations being feasible and reflective of what the College community needs. Struble said SPCSA has shown remarkable leadership and its members have thought broadly and critically of ways to enhance victim support and prevention.

Struble said her biggest concern is whether there is enough willpower in the administration to fully implement these recommendations because of what she said is a past disconnect between what students say needs to be done and how the College responds.

“I would like to see people from within the College administration stand up and take leadership and ownership of these recommendations,” she said.

For Kathryn Kiefer, the New Hampshire attorney general office’s college consortium coordinator, the recommendations were both solid and creative. They could have had more details, Kiefer said, as the recommendations left her with some unanswered questions as to how they would implemented on campus.

The first recommendation concerning the requirement of regular responder workshops for all first-year advisors and faculty leaders of off-campus programs should be broadened to include all faculty members, she said.

Other improvements to the recommendations could include the expansion of the proposed mandatory sexual violence prevention education programs for all GLOS societies to all members of the College community for academic credit, Sharoni said.

“The only way to ensure a qualitative shift in programming is to have a collaboration with academic affairs and grant students credit,” Sharoni said. “The only way that most students will take training seriously on sexual assault is if it is integrated in the curriculum and they get credit for it.”

Now that the recommendations have been released, SPCSA will focus on implementation and research for next year’s recommendations by examining what was overlooked this year and evaluating the best ways to reach out to the community, Damianos said.

“Our big winter plan is implementation,” Damianos said. “It’s taking these five recommendations, dividing and conquering and figuring out how we can assist in setting these changes in motion.”