EDITORIAL: Recognize University for addressing sexual assault concerns
Last Tuesday, Vice President of Student for Affairs Sheryl Sousa ’90 sent an email notifying the student body that the search committee for the position of Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention had selected three finalists for the position. The finalists visited campus on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 and will visit on Nov. 14 to present their evaluations of the current state of sexual misconduct on campus and their plans to address this critical issue. Each finalist will also take part in a Q&A session, and the University will take into consideration all feedback from attendees. This board applauds the University for its efforts to take actionable steps toward creating a safe environment on campus and including the student body in such a critical decision.
Sexual misconduct on campus has become a major issue across the nation in recent years. In 2015, Brandeis conducted a campus climate survey on sexual misconduct and released the results to the public. According to the study, an astounding 22 percent of undergraduate females had “been sexually assaulted, including inappropriate sexual touching, fondling, grabbing and groping.” Additionally, 39.6 percent and 60.8 percent of the female and male undergraduate student body, respectively, chose not to report such incidences. That total evens out to 45.5 percent for the entire undergraduate student population. These numbers indicate a disturbing trend on campus, one that the finalists are sure to address in their presentations.
Surprisingly, only 71.9 percent of respondents indicated the following: “If a friend or I were sexually assaulted, I know where to go get help on campus.” Similarly, 38.2 percent of undergraduate students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “If a friend or I were sexually assaulted, I know where to go to make a report of sexual assault.” The University has posted signs in many bathrooms across campus with the numbers of the Brandeis Rape Crisis Center and campus police; however, such efforts seem to have fallen short of their goal. This board urges the incoming director to take a serious look at the University’s efforts to publicize and advertise such information.
The University continues to open up the floor for students to ask questions, whether during the upcoming finalist presentations or the freedom of expression discussions. Through these forums, students are given the opportunity to voice their opinions. We encourage students to take initiative in important decisions like these and engage with the University administration in a meaningful and impactful way. The University is making a clear effort to include the student body in critical decisions and it is important that students reciprocate and make their voices heard.
We commend the University on its progressive attitude toward addressing the issue of sexual misconduct and its efforts to ensure the safety of the Brandeis community. We urge the incoming director to continue approaching these critical issues in a concrete and inclusive manner.