A CALL TO ACTION
In light of the sexual assault crisis facing the University of Richmond (UR) community, we, the students and alumni of Spiders Against Sexual Assault (SASA), have developed this call to action. The recent Huffington Post articles by UR students Cecilia Carreras and Whitney Ralston, as well as the email sent out by Kappa Alpha Order (KA), have brought to light the deep-seated issues of sexual assault and rape culture on our campus and the ways in which it has been fundamentally mishandled. It is clear from these articles and the KA email that the issues surrounding sexual assault permeate not only the campus culture, but also the administration, athletic department, and Greek Life. In order to combat rape culture and the prevalence of sexual assault on our campus, and in order to work toward inclusion, safety, and justice for all members of the UR community, we have constructed the following proposal. The University of Richmond has a crucial opportunity, indeed obligation, to become a national leader in higher education by reforming and enhancing sexual assault prevention, education, and response efforts. We hope that you will seriously consider our call to action, and in doing so, reaffirm your commitment to the values of our university and to the students who care so deeply about our shared community.
II. Improving Education and Prevention Efforts
We ask for a clear commitment to comprehensive sexual assault education and prevention. This is essential, because our ultimate goal is to eliminate sexual assault entirely. Our proposal includes structural changes to the orientation program and the Wellness curriculum.
1. Orientation introduces first-years to UR and shapes their perceptions of campus, and is especially important during the dangerous “red zone” period. We ask for:
a. standardization of sexual assault orientation sessions across both colleges
b. combined and separately gendered discussion groups during orientation regarding sexual assault and bystander programs
c. a mandate that all student athletes attend all orientation sessions
d. redefined language around rape culture during orientation and tours, including the elimination of positive referencing to our high number of reported sexual assaults
e. Westhampton College students to be in orientation groups with their roommate(s), as Richmond College roommates are paired in orientation groups
2. Student leaders require extensive training before welcoming first-year students in order to lay the groundwork for a community of active bystanders. We ask for:
a. standardization of Resident Assistant (RA) training across Westhampton and Richmond College RA programs
b. the incorporation of sexual assault prevention into training for RAs and Orientation Advisors
c. sessions hosted by the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils during orientation to describe their roles in sexual assault prevention among their organizations and at their parties
3. Sexual experiences should be healthy and positive, not dangerous and traumatic. To eliminate situations of discomfort and violence, comprehensive and inclusive sex education is necessary. We ask for:
a. a mandatory, inclusive sex education class for first-year students about healthy relationships, consent, positive sexuality, and enjoyable sexual experiences, to be incorporated into the existing Wellness requirement
b. a proactive educational, curriculum-based effort to have more conversations about sex and rape culture
c. more extensive training regarding sexual assault, rape culture, and survivor support for faculty and staff
III. Response and Reform
We ask for a reevaluation of the current Title IX structure. The system in place has fostered a great deal of student mistrust and resentment toward the administration and the Title IX process, which undermines its ultimate purpose of providing survivor support and ensuring student safety.
1. Our proposal details measures the administration should take to create positive, trusting, survivor-supporting communication between students and administration. We ask for:
a. the hiring of Title IX investigators independent of the University with considerable input from student and alumni, similar to the dean search process
b. a standardization of punitive administrative responses for all sexual misconduct violations and consistency in the enforcement of punishments, including expulsion for those found responsible for rape
c. implicit bias training for any person involved in the Title IX system
d. a removal of academic barriers for survivors, including a process for removing “incomplete” marks on survivors’ transcripts
2. The Title IX system is not by itself sufficient to support survivors while they cope with the trauma of sexual assault and the stress of the reporting and investigation process. It is imperative that the University provide survivors with as many options and as much support as possible. We ask for:
a. the implementation of the You Have Options Program (YHOP)1, which is an accessible, comprehensive program that provides invaluable support and options for survivors of sexual assault
b. the establishment of a Sexual Assault and Response Prevention Center2 on campus
IV. Destructuring Gendered Space
We ask for an assessment of gendered spaces and policies at the University. Gender division between Richmond College and Westhampton College students both undermines community and excludes students who identify beyond the binary. Single-gender spaces on campus, especially male-dominated spaces, result in less mutual participation, communication, trust, and empathy across genders. Inclusive community is unattainable without these human interactions. The gendered divide continually creates an unhealthy environment of othering and objectification, rather than a community of active bystanders. Historically, these environments, such as Marsh Hall and South Court, house violent cultures.
1. To combat this gender division, we ask for:
a. a full transition to coed dormitories and gender-neutral options by Fall 2017
b. a unification of the two residence life offices
2. This division promotes gendered social spaces that contribute to a male-dominated party culture. Investing in alternatives on campus will diversify the party scene and allow safer options than off-campus parties. To accomplish this, we ask for:
a. funding and promotion of alternatives to fraternity parties, such as an expansion of the Cellar and further investment in SpiderNights
b. the creation of common, unstructured third spaces allowing for student ownership by utilizing vacant lodges and forming makerspaces
3. Coordinate government associations also tend not to collaborate in visible ways. This reinforces a perception of divided dean’s offices and student bodies. Embedding the Title IX process within this perceived binary erodes trust. We ask for:
a. an independent Title IX process, kept separate from the deans’ offices
b. more visible collaboration between the WCGA and the RCSGA
We kindly request that Dr. Crutcher respond to our call to action by Friday, October 7, his previously established date of Fall Break, with a detailed timeline for implementing our proposal. As we believe students should play a central role in this process, we also request that Dr. Crutcher schedule a meeting with members of SASA, a few of whom are listed below, to discuss the integration of our proposal.
The events of the past several weeks have deeply shaken our community, but this crisis has also inspired an outpouring of student activism and community support for impactful change. We would like nothing more than for the University of Richmond to again gain widespread attention, this time for taking the lead in properly addressing and confronting the systemic problems of sexual assault and rape culture on college campuses. This proposal provides the steps for becoming this type of role model for higher education around the country.
Thank you for your consideration. To schedule a meeting to discuss next steps, please reach out to the following members of Spiders Against Sexual Assault:
Rennie Harrison ‘18
Nick Biffis ‘19
Natasha Shannon ‘18
Joshua Kim ‘19
Whitney Ralston ‘19
Melissa Miscione Dart ‘93
Bri Park ‘19
Luriel Balaurea ‘18
1.Please see more detailed information on YHOP’s website: http://www.reportingoptions.org.
2.Please see a student proposal for creating this center: https://dochub.com/whitneyschwalm/agD7q4/sarps_final-proposal.