Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Staff Editorial: Students deserve more support from administrators when it comes to sexual violence

Staff Editorial: Students deserve more support from administrators when it comes to sexual violence

As we enter a new school year, sexual assault continues to present itself as an enduring and pervasive issue on AU’s campus. It is no secret that there are two Title IX cases pending against the University. The mere fact that AU is under investigation for not one, but two alleged violations poses the question: what steps are University administrators taking to combat the issue of sexual violence?

Earlier this summer, The Eagle reported on senior Faith Ferber’s Title IX complaint against the University for allegedly violating her rights by requiring her to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding her case, and for delaying her hearing process, causing it to take longer than the prescribed margin of sixty days.

However, since both Title IX investigations were opened, AU has seen a rise in the number of reported Title IX violations. Both Dr. Gail Hanson, Vice President of Campus Life, and Ferber agree that the increase is a positive thing, as it means that more people are willing to come forward and report problems.

It is clear that the ongoing investigations are a public relations nightmare for administrators, especially Hanson and Dean of Students Robert Hradsky. In reaction to criticism from students and alumni, AU has worked to make the conduct process more transparent. Although the new flowchart released by the Office of Campus LIfe, indicating the conduct process in an accessible format, is a step forward, resources like this should have been outlined in a clear cut manner to students long before now.

Additionally, university administrators must show students that they are not simply working on “handling” this issue on a case by case basis. Rather, AU’s administrators have a responsibility to the AU community to serve as leaders. With leading comes a responsibility to ensure that all members of the community feel safe. With safety, comes trust.

As it stands, the conduct process is a web of legal jargon and confusion. Both alleged perpetrators and survivors or victims deserve appointed counselors by the University to their case to help walk them through the entirety of the process. It should not be a student’s job to find their own advisors when they are already under duress from the stress of being involved in a conduct case. Further, all members of the public deserve to know the sanctions alleged perpetrators can receive. The University must make it clear that sexual violence is unacceptable by providing clear information regarding possible sanctions for perpetrators of sex crimes. Taking these steps will show survivors or victims that their cases will not only be heard, but also be taken seriously. Perhaps these steps will also deter potential perpetrators due to the seriousness of the sanctions.

The administration has shown good intentions in their gradual change. This being said, preventing sexual violence is not solely the responsibility of the administration. Rather, it is an issue that should be reviewed with nuance and thought by all members of the AU community.

Although various members of student organizations such as Greek life are mandated by their leaders to undergo sexual assault prevention training, this type of education should be required for all students. Particularly, The Eagle calls on AU Club Council to mandate preventive education to all student leaders. Furthermore, while EmpowerAU is a valuable program for incoming students, older students cannot be left behind. The conversation on sexual violence must continue to carry upwards, reminding students every academic year that they have a part to play.

Figuring out the best ways to prevent sexual assault is not easy, nor is it clear cut. However, as students, we deserve more from our administrators. It is time for AU to realize that “it’s on us” means that it's on us to always do more, not settle for the bare minimum.


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