Opinion: We need more students on the president's sexual assault committee
Students can help protect students.
This past September, after Richmond students CC Carreras and Whitney Ralston went public about how they felt the university administration mishandled their sexual assault cases, there was a palpable outrage from students, faculty and alumni. Students were angry and incredulous. Parents were shocked and scared. Some alumni even vowed to discontinue their donations to the university. All the while, news and media outlets followed the scandal closely, interviewing students like myself about campus climate and student actions following so much outrage.
Solutions emerged out of all this chaos. Dedicated students, alumni and faculty joined together to create the campus organization Spiders Against Sexual Assault and Violence (SASAV), a group dedicated to making our school a safer community for all by advocating for administrative policy changes as well as new education and prevention initiatives around sexual assault. We held multiple demonstrations to signal our support of survivors and our discontent with administrative silence, and we connected with alumni and faculty. We even created an intensive "Call to Action" proposal for President Ronald Crutcher, in which we outlined changes we considered necessary to student and community health.
In October, we met with President Crutcher to present our proposal, and he released a statement soon after announcing new campus initiatives and programs that would be enacted to better support students.
Among the changes listed was the creation of a Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, the increase of CAPS resources and a full-time counselor trained in survivor support, and the establishment of a President’s Advisory Committee to review university policies and procedures around sexual assault. Many members of the University of Richmond community, including those of us in SASAV, were excited to hear that positive changes would be made. SASAV was especially proud to see that our efforts contributed to this progress.
You can imagine our disappointment, then, to see no SASAV presence on the President’s Advisory Committee, which The Collegian reported on Tuesday. There are also no representatives from CAPS, athletics, Title IX, the WGSS Department, Common Ground, Greek Life, the Chaplaincy or Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors, a student-driven initiative that also sprung out of the sexual assault crisis this fall. And among the 16 members chosen for the committee, there are just two undergraduate students, although that number will soon be four. Four undergrads on a committee dedicated to reviewing how well university training, prevention, and education efforts are working to protect all of the school's students.
The exclusion of so many groups and areas of campus life undoubtedly means less Richmond voices being heard. Student voices in particular should be prioritized when having conversations about how to seriously change the culture of sexual assault on campus. We are the demographic primarily affected by sexual violence, and we have important contributions and ideas to share — ideas that could help change the culture at University of Richmond for the better.
Although SASAV has not been given a seat at the President’s Committee table, our work will continue. We will keep meeting regularly, planning education events, and strategizing about how to make our campus a safer place for everybody. We will do our best to work with the student representatives on the committee in order to make our voices heard.
Contact contributor Rennie Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.