University of Richmond President Ronald Crutcher has constructed a 16-member advisory committee for sexual assault prevention and response that includes faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and students.
The committee, which already met in December and more recently this Monday, is charged with "conducting a comprehensive and objective evaluation of the University’s training, prevention, and response efforts, as well as policies and procedures, and making recommendations for enhancing our current policies, response protocols, and education and prevention programs," Crutcher wrote in an email to The Collegian.
The committee will also examine the third-party review of the university's current policies and procedures, which is being conducted by law firm McGuire Woods.
In choosing members for the committee, which will meet monthly for 18 months, Crutcher aimed to have broad and objective representation from across the campus community, he said in a sit-down interview with The Collegian.
Sara Hyman, WC ’19, and Michael Tyler York, RC '19, both members of student government, are the only students currently on the committee. Multiple students voiced concern over the lack of student representation from outside of student government, prompting Crutcher to add two more students to the committee.
Crutcher leaned on the student government associations for student selections because they represent the student body, he said. He likened this decision to his reliance on the alumni association to help choose alumni representatives.
Mia Hagerty, president of Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA), and Ken Anderson, president of Richmond College Student Government Association (RCSGA), emailed students last week seeking nominations from the student body for the two remaining student spots.
RCSGA and WCGA will then be responsible for nominating two students.
Notably missing from the committee are representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Title IX department, the athletic department, Greek Life and multiple student-run advocacy and education groups, including Spiders for Spiders, Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors (PSMA) and Spiders Against Sexual Assault and Violence (SASAV).
Though not represented on the committee, representatives from many of these groups will be called upon to assist and educate committee members during the first phase, which will include gathering information and learning about legal requirements and current university policy, Crutcher said.
Crutcher did not select some of these organizations for the committee because he does not believe advocacy and policymaking can effectively occur simultaneously, he said.
"What you need to separate here is policy versus advocacy," Crutcher said. "...It's messy to try to do both at the same time. We're trying to set policy and you have to do that in a deliberate fashion, in an objective fashion."
Alexandra Abreu, a Title IX intern and student leader of both Spiders for Spiders and the PSMA program, said the lack of an explanation was cause for frustration among many students.
"We're all smart enough to realize that there is a method to some of the madness," Abreu said. "If they were just to very clearly have said, 'This is the list of people we chose and this is why we chose them,' I think people would have accepted that."
Peter LeViness, director of CAPS, was not bothered that CAPS and other organizations were left off of the committee because their knowledge and expertise would be drawn upon when necessary, he said.
"I could see why they wouldn't want to have all those offices on the committee itself as long as they get the relevant information at the time they need it," LeViness said. "It gives you more of a chance to have an objective view."
Others, including co-founder of SASAV Rennie Harrison, WC '18, were less satisfied with Crutcher's selections and frustrated that he did not include representatives from organizations more closely tied to sexual assault prevention and response at Richmond.
"I was disappointed to see that a lot of the students who have been working for months, if not years, on the issues of sexual assault at [Richmond] were not chosen," Harrison told The Collegian. "And I was disappointed that faculty who are experts in the areas of violence against women were not considered either, or if considered, not chosen.
“I do think there’s something that’s really lost when you exclude the people that have been working at the forefront for months.”
Crutcher first announced he would be forming the committee and asked for nominations in an Oct. 7 email, in which he also announced sweeping changes to the school's policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct.
The university administration did not actively communicate Crutcher's selections with the campus community, although the committee is listed on the president's page of the school's website. Crutcher wrote in a message to the university community on Nov. 21 that he would name the committee before the end of the fall semester, but said he had not been able to do so because the student members had not yet been selected.
The absence of an announcement disappointed some students, including Abreu, she said.
"My biggest issue is I think, especially after what we saw last semester, it is very important to be even more transparent than how you usually are," Abreu said. "I think especially because people have been waiting for this and searching for it, we all expected some kind of email."
After a tumultuous fall semester during which the school's administration came under fire for its handling of sexual assault cases, Crutcher said he felt the school was in a position to become a leader among fellow colleges and universities.
"I want to be a leader," Crutcher said. "I'd love for us to be a model in how we can take an already pretty good approach to sexual assault and make some changes so we can be a model institution."
Though the committee will work for 18 months, Crutcher said it would provide a written report to the campus community at the end of this academic year.
The full list of committee members is below:
Chair: Ronald A. Crutcher, President
Steve Bisese, Vice President, Student Development
Ashleigh Brock, ’05, Associate Director, Experiential Learning & Assessment, Alumni and Career Services
Tara Casey, Director, Carrico Center for Pro Bono and Public Service, Richmond Law
Amanda DeBusk, WC’78, P’17, P’20, Trustee Emerita
Sara Hyman, ’19
David Lyons, B’87, URAA Board Member
Dave McCoy, Chief of University Police
Kristine Nolin, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Brittany Schaal, GC’16, Director of Emergency Management, USAC
Emily Shepard, L’18
Peter Smallwood, Professor of Biology
Steve Thompson, Associate Professor of Management, Faculty Senate
Thad Williamson, Associate Professor of Leadership Studies, Faculty Senate
Jamelle Wilson, P’20, Dean, School of Professional and Continuing Studies
Michael Tyler York ’19
Staff to the Committee: Shannon Sinclair, Vice President and General Counsel
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