University should make filling sexual assault post a priority

As reported in an Oct. 30 article in Student Life, the hiring process for a coordinator of the University’s sexual assault prevention services—an official who would take our campus’s programming around rape prevention to the next level and ensure that there is a comprehensive dialogue—has been stalled yet again.

In September, we commended the University for making progress on the hiring of an assistant director for sexual assault and community health services by bringing three candidates to campus for comprehensive interviews that involved open forums with student groups.

After these interviews, the committee tasked with interviewing the candidates submitted its recommendation to Dr. Alan Glass, the director of Student Health Services. But since receiving the recommendation, Glass has continued the search for a candidate, leading us to question the slow pace of filling this position.

Glass has been quiet about why no one was hired, but we find it strange that a candidate thoroughly endorsed by the committee would not be approved. Continually, we have been concerned about the University’s lethargy in hiring a coordinator, and we compel the administration to continue its search with vigor.

The new post is too important a role to be cast aside—a role lobbied for by the student body, one that would publicize awareness of sexual assault prevention, and one that would unite the efforts of Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (S.A.R.A.H.), Committee Organized for Rape Education (CORE), and Men Organized for Rape Education (MORE) in a directive and comprehensive manner.

Moreover, it is important that when the position is filled, it is as effective as possible. The position has been framed in terms of community health, a lens that rightly highlights the many facets of sexual and relationship violence and, more importantly, the many ways that it affects the community. However, while the language of health appropriately addresses the broader problems faced by our campus, it diffuses the responsibility that members of the community ought to have for one another’s safety. The well-being of the victims and the ways that alcoholism and other mental health problems factor into instances of assault—factors that Glass cited as central to the dogma of the new position—are important, but they do not fulfill the responsibility of individual students to be accountable for their actions and to stop dangerous situations in which rape happens.

Putting the position under the broad umbrella of community health must not make it seem as though sexual violence is not a pervasive problem on this campus. We feel that it is of critical importance that the new director not allow broader conversations of health to distract from the cold reality of sexual violence, which happens regularly on campus.

Though the administration has continually maintained that filling this position is a priority, the slow pace of the hiring process and the lack of specific emphasis for this particular initiative are troubling. We hope the University will ensure that coordinating the prevention of sexual assault becomes a priority in deed as well as in word.

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