by Nate Tisa
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.
Many Georgetown students, myself included, like to think of the Hilltop as a city on a hill. Our school is special; our campus has a unique feel and history and culture that set us apart from other institutions. Within this mindset, we are tempted to avert our eyes from the occasional ugliness that does exist here, especially when it comes to sexual assault.
National statistics are easy to dismiss, but data from an anonymous health survey sent out every two years at Georgetown University reveal that one in four women and one in 33 men will report sexual assault during their time on campus. That’s seven members of your Darnall floor. More than an entire block of Village A. One is too many, but one in four is a travesty.
This is an issue that affects the entire community and demands a community response. We need to look within ourselves to change the culture surrounding sexual assault and the treatment of survivors. As student advocates, GUSA needs to look critically at the Code of Conduct and university enforcement mechanisms to make sure there is no equivocation on this issue, and no sweeping it under the rug any longer. Far too many students have felt alienated by the university’s response to their experience with sexual assault to set this issue aside.
Until recently, the university’s Sexual Assault Working Group had failed to meet for years. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated Sexual Assault Peer Educators and outgoing GUSA executives Clara and Vail, this working group began to meet again to discuss this issue. Progress is slow, but it’s on its way. Given the work of this body, we are ready to step into action.
No issue should be more important to GUSA than ensuring the safety and inclusion of every student on this campus. That’s why I started the Speaker’s Commission on Inclusion and Safety last semester during my tenure as Speaker of the GUSA Senate.
But now is not the time to send the issue to committee and leave it at that. Adam and I are ready to act and have set out specific policies that will address the problem head on.
First, we need to reform the Code of Conduct to make it clear that sexual assault is sexual assault, period. The document currently differentiates between Category B and Category C assault, insinuating that some cases are less important or not a big deal. We will work starting on day one to eliminate this ambiguity once and for all.
Second, we need to create training programs for incoming students and student leaders and strengthen them where they already exist. As Speaker of the Senate, I encouraged committees to undergo sexual assault training with the Sexual Assault Peer Educators. As president, I will encourage advisory boards to participate in such sessions as well. Furthermore, we will work with the Sexual Assault Working Group to implement a sexual assault webinar, already under development, for incoming freshmen, as well as on-campus discussions.
The only thing worse than not talking about sexual assault is pretending to talk about sexual assault. Reducing the incidence of sexual assault on campus requires action. Coming in as two men, and recognizing that privilege, Adam and I have a responsibility to expand the conversation into untraditional areas. We will partner with groups like SAE that have already demonstrated an interest in sexual assault risk reduction and awareness activities.
Student life can only be vibrant if built on a foundation of safety and community support. That’s why sexual assault has been on our platform since day one, and why we will begin to fight its prevalence on campus during our first day in office.