Community shares concerns on sexual assault reporting policies in second Speak Up! forum
While sexual assault, misconduct, and harassment have always been a part of the conversations on college campuses (sometimes in good ways and sometimes not), this year there has been a venerable explosion of coverage around the nation on this topic. Not to be left out of the conversation, Puget Sound students have taken up the call and have been asking, demanding, and shining the spotlight on these issues and what the campus has been doing or not doing. The culmination of these conversations were the Speak Up! forums. These talks took place on Nov. 6 and 13 and were an effort made by ASUPS and the administration to give students a chance to familiarize themselves with the policies and procedures that our school has in place concerning sexual misconduct and harassment.
Both of the forums had the same basic structure; however, there were many things different with the event that took place Nov. 13 from its twin on Nov. 6. To start, the introductions made by the faculty and students in charge of event made it clear that they had taken what was said in the previous meeting into consideration and were altering their speech to account for what students had noted as problems. Such immediate change was gratifying, but whether or not it will translate into policy change and administrative action remains to be seen. The introductions again stressed the importance and seriousness of discussions such as this, and created a similar atmosphere of somberness, safety and productivity.
The most notable changes were the people in the room. As promised, Ronald Thomas was present at the event, showing further support for the students and faculty as they continue to discuss and attempt to improve on these pressing issues. Peer allies and CHWS workers were again present at the meeting, encouraging the safe space atmosphere and showing that those who needed it could seek help. Whereas the first meeting had about 12 students in all, this forum had over double that, clocking in around 25 students. This meant that more conversation was able to come out from the smaller focus groups and a more holistic view of what students took issue with concerning the policy and procedure was able to come to light.
Students at the second Speak Up! event wanted to know more of what went on behind the scenes of the cases. How much of a time commitment were students up against when they file a case? Who gets notified when a case is filed? What are the qualifications for the people on the misconduct board who hear the case? Some of the students were more concerned with the structure and wording of the document; were its priorities correct as far as the order in which definitions, such as consent, appear? Could a table of contents or an infographic of some sort be added to help guide a reader through the different avenues of action available to them? These are just some of the questions and topics that came up at the end of the conversations when the group came together, and even all the ones that were said in the closing minutes were not all that was discussed in the individual groups.
So what now? Well, during both of the forums, there was a non participatory scribe assigned to each of the individual meetings that took place who wrote down everything that was said in the conversation (with full confidentiality for the speakers in the room, of course) and all of those notes will be compiled into a synthesis document, which will then be emailed out to students and faculty who have signed up to receive the document. The school then encourages students to respond again to the email and make sure that everything that needs to be noted and said came through in the document, or if something needs to be changed or addressed that the people in charge know so. After a grace period to allow for that conversation, the school will use that synthesis document to try to create new policies and procedures.
If you would like to also receive an email of the synthesis document, please email the Assistant Dean of Students Sarah Shives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more about what happened in the first forum and the format for the discussions in my first article; http://trail.pugetsound.edu/2014/11/sexual-misconduct-summit/