GUSA 2013: Putting Women First

12 Feb

by Spencer Walsh and Rob Silverstein

Throughout this week we will be posting pieces by Georgetown University Student Association Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates. We reached out to all five tickets asking them to respond to how they see feminism and feminist issues at Georgetown. 

Whoever fills the roles of Clara Gustafson and Vail Kohnert-Yount after this month’s GUSA election, issues that matter to Georgetown’s women — and by extension, the entire campus — will remain some of the most critical topics for our community to tackle.

In our conversations with campus leaders, especially those who have distinguished themselves in women’s advocacy, increasing awareness of sexual assault at Georgetown has been mentioned time and again as the most important issue.

We understand the urgency of this task and have incorporated plans to increase awareness — and consequently reduce the incidence — of sexual assault into our platform.

Research indicates that the vast majority — perhaps as much as 97 percent — of sexual assaults on campuses around the country go unreported. The picture on the Hilltop is similarly bleak and, as GUSA executives, we will do our part to spread the work.

We believe that the University must do more to address sexual assault and we will partner with campus groups like Take Back the Night and GU Men Creating Change to pressure officials from President DeGioia downwards to become more forthright on the issue.

Specifically, we know that increasing understanding of what consent really looks like among men and women across campus is key. We embrace the proposed inclusion of a “Pluralism in Action”-like program addressing sexual assault in New Student Orientation.

While increasing awareness of sexual assault is one thing, we must also act to make the reporting of sexual assault easier for Georgetown students. To do so, we will promote and expand the Safe Spaces program and advocate for a swifter and more serious University response to sexual assault.

The Safe Spaces program trains and equips peer leaders in residence halls and apartment complexes to handle reports of both bias-related incidents and sexual assault. As executives, we will work with the Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Public Safety to recruit more ambassadors and provide them with the resources they need.

We will also work with DPS to change the language they use in describing sexual assault in public safety alerts. While “forcible fondling” may elicit laughter, it cheapens the issue and demeans victims.

Street harassment is another issue that has been raised frequently and we will push DPS to take a critical view towards catcalling. While some people may not see this issue as a paramount concern, street hassling is both inappropriate on its face and fosters an environment where women are victimized in ways that are even more severe.

Obviously, the needs of women at Georgetown go far beyond greater awareness and better reporting of sexual assault. And we are prepared to lead on other issues.

In particular, we will embrace groups that support empowering women, both in the District of Columbia and around the world and promote a greater dialogue on issues surrounding reproductive health.

Many posts on Feminists-at-Large focus on the sense of a global sisterhood and helping women who may not be as fortunate as many at Georgetown. We will work with leaders like Kat and Erin to support groups both locally and globally that will make a difference.

Reproductive health issues have — and will — continue to inspire debate on our campus. Whether it is Sandra Fluke expressing her support for contraception or the Catholic Daughters advocating against abortion, there is a diversity of views on reproductive issues on campus.

We believe that it is in the best tradition of Georgetown to promote dialogue on these issues, and we will support an open discussion on campus, including allowing H*yas for Choice a greater role in the debate.

Finally, while Georgetown’s gay community has been the nexus for much of the debate over gender-neutral housing, we believe allowing students to choose their living situation is empowering and meshes well with the goals of the feminist movement. That is why we have made the implementation of gender-neutral housing a centerpiece of our platform.

We are not naïve enough to believe that these prescriptions will be implemented or succeed immediately. We are not so self-assured to believe that more discussion is not needed on these issues. But our pledge to Georgetown is that we will listen to you, empower the student body and make change across the Hilltop.

To hear more from Spencer Walsh and Rob Silverstein, visit their website or facebook

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