GUSA Supports White House Assault Initiative
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01
The Georgetown University Student Association published a press release Jan. 25 in support of the federal government’s new initiative to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.
The release urged the university to continue making progress toward eradicating sexual assault on campus.
“GUSA, alongside other student groups and students on campus, continues to work diligently with the university administration to improve services and judicial processes for survivors of sexual assault,” the press release said. “In light of this federal action, we encourage the university to improve its policies toward sexual misconduct.”
According to The National College Health Assessment, on average, one in four females and one in 33 males will experience sexual assault while at Georgetown.
Obama’s task force, which was created last week, is comprised of the attorney general and the secretaries of education, interior and health and human services. Over the next 90 days, the group will work to encourage colleges to take a stronger stance on sexual assault. It will also ensure that universities are complying with current laws.
GUSA outlined seven recommendations for the university: to make sexual history and dress non-factors during sexual assault hearings, to clarify the conditions for continuing a case against a survivor’s wishes, to install closed-circuit cameras to prevent contact between the survivor and the perpetrator, to allow administrators to participate in the hearing board in lieu of students, to implement constant bystander protection education, to hire additional trauma specialists and health education staff and to ask faculty members to evaluate current programming with evidence-based criteria.
“We hope that the White House’s leadership will inspire Georgetown’s administration to make a renewed commitment to resolve some of the aforementioned issues,” the press release said.
GUSA Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Peterson (COL ’14) asserted that the new task force will help enhance relations between students and administrators at Georgetown.
“What I took away as important was that it’s up to university presidents, and most of all, it’s up to students on campus to make sure those presidents are held accountable on this issue,” Peterson said. “This is our attempt to build on our existing work with administrators and try to make it a more public issue so that there can be more accountability in the process.”
The press release will expedite discussions between the two groups so that specific programs can be implemented. For example, the introduction of sexual assault education to New Student Orientation has long been discussed.
“Right now, we’re trying to make sure that tentative commitments we’ve received from the administration, like incorporating bystander education into NSO, will become a reality,” Peterson said. “I think the administration has shown a commitment to this issue in the past, and we have been working extensively with administrators, so it’s about acting as student representatives on this issue along with very important groups like Take Back the Night and Sexual Assault Peer Educators.”
GUSA is working with NSO coordinators such as NSO Director Justin Smith in order to incorporate bystander education into NSO.
“The ‘What’s a Hoya’ program that we launched this month, in fact, is addressing this issue, so that’s another way of trying to get more awareness and more advocacy among students at Georgetown because at the end of the day this a cultural thing,” GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said. “We need as many students as possible to understand why bystander intervention is so important and what they can each do to stop the culture that’s perpetuating this on campus.”
Sexual Assault Peer Educator and Co-Founder of the Feminists-At-Large blog Kathleen Kelley (NHS ’14) hopes that Obama’s task force will galvanize change.
“I want to see mandatory sexual assault bystander intervention and consent education for everyone ever,” Kelley wrote in an email. “I want to see large-scale awareness campaigns, but ultimately, this is (weirdly enough) a controversial issue, and thus we need small group and individual interventions (e.g. the Sexual Assault Peer Educators) to really challenge people’s biases, myths, beliefs and assumptions to radically alter the way we think about sexual assault.”
Kelley added that Georgetown could lead other institutions toward positive change if it chooses to implement these new policies.
“It allows us to spread our knowledge to other campuses because this has suddenly become an intense national issue,” Kelley said. “When we work on issues, we can take the lessons that we’ve learned to other campuses in D.C. and national arenas.”