Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Eagle Summit programming and SG task force set to tackle sexual assault on campus

Corrections appended.

AU administration announced that there will be new bystander intervention programming for University employees and incoming students in a “progress report” emailed to the campus community on June 13.

The new programming came alongside changes to some definitions included in AU’s Student Conduct Code under “Prohibited Conduct” in the wake of 70 pages of leaked emails from AU’s banned fraternity Epsilon Iota. The correspondences between the members of EI included multiple lewd comments about women and potentially non-consensual sexual situations and were leaked to the AU community on April 16.

Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson detailed the changes that AU has made, including an external review of fraternity and sorority life at AU and the adoption of bystander intervention programming at all freshman orientation sessions in the memorandum “progress report” on June 13. The report was also published AU’s STAND with AU webpage that was launched in May.

“As a community we knew we had to confront the proposition that some of the conduct surfaced in the EI e-mails also occurs in other aspects of campus life – beyond EI,” Hanson wrote on June 13. “The EI incident was a call to action.”

Conduct code and programming overhaul
AU will adjust programming at all Eagle Summit sessions this summer to address sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention and the risks of associating with unrecognized, off-campus groups, Hanson said in the June 13 memo.

The new programming will be in accordance with the principles of the “STEP UP!” program developed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University of Arizona, according to the memo.

New students, resident assistants, program assistants, desk receptionists and athletes will have to participate in “STEP UP!” during the summer while fraternity, sorority and campus leaders will have training sessions during the fall semester, according to the June 13 memo.

“STEP UP!” is used at hundreds of universities across the country, including Georgetown University, and is designed to help students through five decision-making steps, according to the program’s website.

The steps are:

  • Notice the event
  • Interpret the event as a problem – Investigate!
  • Assume personal responsibility
  • Know how to help
  • Implement the help: Step Up!

In addition to increased trainings at Eagle Summit, AU will begin an online training program for incoming law and graduate students this summer, according to the email. This program will be similar to the one already required of the incoming undergraduates, Hanson’s email said.

The University is currently in the process of developing bystander intervention information for current students, which will be broadcast as Public Service Announcements on campus electronic message boards, university social media and a training video.

In a April 29 memo to the University, Hanson cited the Panhellenic Council’s adoption of twice-yearly bystander training as a positive step forward for the University. The Panhellenic Council’s policy change was not a result of the leaked emails, according to Panhellenic Council President Leslie Reid in an email on April 22.

“This bill was proposed three weeks ago, well before the leaked documents and they played no role in the bylaw’s drafting, proposal or passage,” Reid said in an April 22 email.

Hanson said in the May 15 email that the leaked documents and news coverage did not impact freshman enrollment for the 2014-2015 academic year, and the University received more deposits than expected.

AU has also revised several aspects of the AU Student Conduct Code to reflect the suggestions outlined by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault as well as the Violence Against Women Act 2013, The Eagle previously reported.

The changes include amendments to how the University recognizes and defines prohibited conduct, stalking and harassment as well as the University’s definitions of physical assault, dating violence and domestic violence.

AU administration looks to fall 2014
The University’s administration plans to extend the discussion during the fall 2014 semester by creating opportunities for students, faculty and staff to review programs that are currently in place at AU while also considers new suggestions from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault.

“A number of proposals are on the table, which include suggestions developed in collaboration with members of the AU community,” Hanson said in a May 15 email. “Together, we will be working to enhance our programs, with special attention to the measures highlighted in the recent report released by the White House.”

The White House Task Force launched the website NotAlone.gov, which provides resources for students to dissect their legal rights under Title IX, which requires schools receiving federal funding to respond to reports of sexual assault. The site also explains students’ confidentiality rights and provides a resource map that requires a zip code to locate rape crisis hotlines and centers in the area.

NotAlone.gov outlines actions that colleges and universities can take to:

  • Identify campus culture through a survey that will likely be standardized and potentially made mandatory in 2016
  • Respond effectively when a student reports that he or she has been assaulted
  • Develop well-worded policies and prevention resources

In alignment with the White House Task force’s suggestions, AU is currently investigating the White House Task Force’s “campus climate assessment” survey and will announce in July on the STAND with AU webpage if the University will use this assessment tool, Hanson said in the June 13 memo.

The University will also be contracting an external review of fraternity and sorority life “by a trained team of professional campus and fraternity and sorority leaders,” according to the June 13 memo. The assessment will occur on September 16 and 17, 2014 and will be run by a team from the National Interfraternity Council’s Fraternity & Sorority Coalition Assessment Project in Indianapolis, Ind., according to the memo.

The assessment will be aimed at social organizations; however, investigations into other organizations may happen in the future, Hanson said in a June 13 email to The Eagle.

“This team’s focus is social organizations – the AU chapters of national fraternities & sororities. We will consider issues raised about professional Greek letter groups separately,” she said.

AU plans to maintain student input on the ongoing policy changes through collaboration with the AU Student Government task force on sexual assault prevention titled The Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, which will work closely with AU in the coming semester, according Hanson’s June 13 email.

These interactions will be facilitated through AU’s counterpart task force as well as regular meeting with administrators, according to Hanson’s June 13 email to The Eagle.

“I meet regularly with SG President Sophia Wirth about a range of issues, and task force updates will be among these,” Hanson said in the June 13 email to The Eagle. “ The Campus Life counterpart to the SG Task Force is the Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG), which will be chaired in the fall by AVP & Dean of Student Rob Hradsky.”

The SG task force will meet this summer to prepare a report on sexual assault prevention on campus, which it will then present to AU in the fall.

The task force official announced its members on June 16 and released its official mission statement the following Friday, according to SG President Sophia Wirth.

Daniel Rappaport, the sexual assault prevention coordinator at the wellness center, will be one of the members, Wirth said.

“We established the task force on my first day in office in May and have been working very hard on it every day since,” she said.

So far, Wirth is happy with the cooperation she has seen from AU.

“AU has been very responsive to everything with EI,” she said. “But I am very glad to see that there is a sense that [the recent changes] are just the beginning.”

However, she wants the task force to reach beyond AU’s campus and hold the University responsible for taking definitive action.

“We are seeking to utilize the national spotlight to raise awareness for this issue, not only at an AU level or a campus level, but on a national scale,” she said. “We can make recommendations, but it is really up to [AU] to make the changes.”

A previous version of the article incorrectly attributed quotes from Gail Hanson to Camille Lepre. Lepre emailed Hanson’s quotes to The Eagle but did not say them.

news@theeagleonline.com


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