Distrust of admin. evident at sexual assault forum
Managing News Editor
Halfway through Monday’s open forum on sexual assault and harassment, political science professor Stuart Kaufman asked for a show of hands.
“A few minutes ago, [a student] made a very strong statement,” Kaufman said. “He said, ‘I don’t trust the administration.’ […] How many people are willing to associate themselves with that?”
Three-quarters of the people in attendance raised their hands.
When considering the issue of sexual violence on this campus, Kaufman said, it is important to acknowledge that lack of trust in the administration plays a role.
This notion of administrative distrust, as well as concerns about campus climate, mandatory reporting and the inefficiency of current educational tools defined the conversation at Monday’s forum, hosted by the Faculty Senate Commission on Sexual Harassment and Assault. Professor of civil engineering Michael Chajes leads the commission, which consists of faculty, students and staff.
The purpose of the forum, Chajes said, was to receive input from the university community for the commission to include as part of its findings when it presents to the rest of the Faculty Senate in April.
Chajes said he was pleased with student attendance at the forum, especially when considering how few students attended Title IX coordinator Susan Groff’s information sessions in the fall. He thinks advertising the forum as an open discussion rather than as a presentation was beneficial, and better encouraged students engaged with the topic to come out.
One such student, freshman Harry Lewis, initially brought up the issue many had with the administration. He cited the administration’s response to the alleged sexual harassment of a student by former professor Eric Tranby and its subsequent response when those allegations were made public by The Review as an example.
“It wasn’t just about the incident but about the language used surrounding it,” Lewis said. “And when [the university community] found out about it, we were told to shut up, it’ll go away. My question is, why should we trust [the commission]? Because everyone in the administration, they’re not obliged to take these recommendations to heart.”
In response, Chajes said he thinks there have been a few indications in the past year that the university will listen to its students, faculty and staff. For sexual violence specifically, the university must listen, he said, because it is a huge issue affecting campuses all over the country.
Sophomore Sage Carson, who organized the #UDoBetter rally this fall and who serves on the Senate commission, said making suggestions is “the only option.”
“I went from holding a megaphone and essentially screaming ‘I hate you’ to coming up with suggestions, because we don’t have another option,” Carson said.
Deputy Provost Nancy Brickhouse said she does not think there are easy solutions in issues of sexual violence, and the administration needs the input of passionate people.
“There are also many people [in the administration] who understand there have been missteps and we’re working now to rectify a lot of those missteps,” Brickhouse said. “We want to get this right. It’s really important to engage in this even if you feel frustrated.”