Students Call for Action Against Campus Sexual Assault at SGA Meeting
BY JIM MALVEN
Students argued for schoolwide action against sexual assault on campus in a “security discussion” during last Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting.
They insisted that there should be open conversation between students and faculty about sexual assault and suggested participating in a protest march and holding a TGIF. In addition, SGA’s Security Committee decided that the entire Senate will go through training for Green Dot, a bystander intervention program used at colleges and universities to prevent power-based personal violence.
These movements were inspired in part by the fact that there were five reports of on-campus rape during the previous calendar year. This statistic was listed in Westminster’s Annual Security Report, which was released at the end of September and highlighted in a recently published Columns article.
However, Senator Manfredo Flores, ’18, said on Tuesday that administrators have not done enough by merely revealing the number of rape reports.
“It’s kind of sad to think that these things are happening and the only reason we find out about (them) is through an email and a report,” Flores said. “People feel like there should be a way to talk about these things and have meetings and be more involved in actually changing things on campus, rather than just figuring out a year afterwards. I feel like if there wasn’t a report in The Columns about this, probably no one would ever find out.”
Concern also came from a sexual assault allegation that a former Westminster student posted on Twitter earlier this month (at her request to not receive additional media attention, The Columns is not disclosing her name). In the post, the individual writes that she was raped by a fellow student in her freshman suite last October, gives a detailed account of the incident and states that the school ruled that there was no violation of the college’s sexual misconduct policy after two hearings.
When Senator Gordon Allison, ’17, asked SGA Adviser Dan Haslag about this allegation, Haslag replied that the administration takes sexual assault cases “extremely serious(ly)” and that the college’s sexual assault investigations are “designed to be as fair as possible.” Haslag said that the investigations are conducted by a balance of men and women, are consistent with federal guidelines and requirements and are similar to those of Westminster’s “institutional peers.”
“All I can say is that there’s more than one side to a story, and while it is heart-wrenching, it’s difficult, but we did do a very good job throughout our process,” he said.
Haslag added that Student Life has been focusing on improving Westminster’s overall campus climate through programs to “educate the community about alcohol abuse, including the potential health effects and effects upon social engagement” and training for Green Dot.
“This will empower our campus community with tools to help with prevention and build upon our healthy campus climate,” Haslag said.
The idea for every SGA member to go through Green Dot training was brought up by Lydia Creech, ’19, during the security discussion.
“As students, we need to prevent this,” Creech said. “It’s on us.”
In a security report later in the meeting, SGA President and Security Committee head Zach Stafford, ’17, discussed additional measures that the school has been taking to combat sexual assault, including a campus security program. This program, which will be open to everyone, will provide training in crime reporting, education on the Clery Act and access to emergency phone numbers and crime statistics.
Stafford also said that the administration has been working on plans to supplement the campus’s blue emergency phones with more advanced technology, such as bulletproof phone booths and a security app that will allow users to dial 911 or Campus Security and indicate their location and situation.
Haslag commented, “There’s going to be a multitude of things.”
Meanwhile, Allison suggested involving students in the fight against sexual assault by holding a TGIF for togetherness or having a march to unify the Westminster community, an idea that Senator Juan Manzo, ’17, also proposed.
“We need to condemn this stuff,” Manzo said. “We don’t need this to happen at Westminster anymore.”