The GUSA senate voted unanimously Sunday to require annual sexual assault peer educator training for all student government members, while also urging the university to alter its policy regarding sexual assault in the Code of Student Conduct.

These bills come at the heels of months of work by the Georgetown University Student Association Sexual Assault Working Group to add an hour-long sexual assault training and discussion program for all students to New Student Orientation. That effort culminated in the addition of sexual assault resources as a topic addressed in the NSO Show and a voluntary ice cream social as a forum for discussion of the issue.

The second resolution called for the addition of an amnesty clause to the code of conduct protecting those wishing to report sexual assault cases from other violations, including underage alcohol use, drug use, noise violations and trespassing.

“Right now, students do not have amnesty for reporting issues of sexual assault. If there are drugs or alcohol on them, that is something that can count against them,” said GUSA senator Patrick Spagnuolo (SFS ’14), a co-sponsor of both bills.

The second bill also encourages the university administration to more clearly define sexual consent in the code and to delineate the difference between sexual assault, a Category C violation according to the code of conduct, and sexual misconduct, a Category B violation. GUSA also called for better publicity of the reporting process for cases of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, the senate rejected an amendment proposed by GUSA Senator Ben Weiss (COL ’15) that would have required all members of advisory boards that receive funding from the student activities fee endowment through the GUSA Finance and Appropriate Committee to undergo similar training in a vote of 5-15.

“Because we are GUSA, we can mandate ourselves, but we also have power over the advisory boards,” Weiss said.

Spagnuolo disagreed with Weiss, noting the discrepancy between controlling advisory board funding and mandating particular advisory board behavior over topics unrelated to budgetary issues.

Newly appointed Finance and Appropriations Chair Cannon Warren (SFS ’14) echoed Spagnuolo’sremarks and remained critical of mandating sexual assault training as an additional prerequisite to the current requirements advisory boards must meet to apply for funding.
“Strategically, we already have a tense relationship with advisory boards,” Warren said. “I think we can ask them first.  If you haven’t talked to them yet, this might hit them in the face.”

GUSA senator Robert Shepherd (COL ’15), who supports Weiss’ proposal in principle, agreed with Warren on the need for communication with the advisory boards.

“I fully agree that advisory boards should be required to do it, but I don’t think we’re logistically ready to do it at this point,” Shepherd said.

Weiss objected to these arguments.

“This training is a one-hour conversation about sexual assault. Advisory boards meet once a week, every week, for the year. If they don’t have an hour to spare to learn about one of the most horrific things that can be done to a person, I don’t know what you have time for,” he said.

GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), who worked closely with the GUSA senate to develop the two successful bills, emphasized the importance of making sexual assault a central discussion between the university administration and students.

“The problem with the administration is that they are passive and they don’t fight against the barriers,”Tisa said. “Over the summer, I knew someone who was assaulted on this campus. The response they received from the university and from people who were involved was to sweep it under the rug.  These are things that we have to change culturally and in terms of policy.”

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