‘Good enough is zeroing out’: Students, faculty discuss next steps following AAU campus climate survey results

| Senior News Editor

Washington University administrators hosted a listening session to discuss how to rebuild trust in the University’s Title IX process and how the University can address sexual violence on campus following the results of the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey Oct. 17.

The survey, which was administered in spring 2019 at Washington University and 32 other institutions nationwide, revealed an increase in the prevalence of nonconsensual sexual contact from 2015, when the survey was last administered. The survey also showed that only 23.2% of undergraduate women found it very or extremely likely that an investigation of sexual assault by campus officials would be fair.

For Director of the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention center Kim Webb, making sure that students are knowledgeable about resources and believe in their efficacy is a process that extends beyond the RSVP Center.

“We have to rebuild trust and really foster that trust in all of our offices,” Webb said.

Administrators expressed distress over the new statistics and commitment to reversing the negative trend.

“I was a little bit devastated to read those numbers,” Title IX Director Jessica Kennedy said. “We do so much work, and to see that we’re, in some ways, moving in the wrong direction, is really hard…We’d love to think that we’re doing everything we can and that those numbers are going to improve, and I’m hopeful that they will, but it was a pretty dark day, and a dark time since.”

Chancellor Andrew Martin characterized his immediate response to seeing the data as “profound sadness.” In the path to addressing sexual misconduct on campus, he wants the University to strive to be above the status quo.

“It’s very clear that this is something where students, faculty [and] administration have to be working hand-in-hand together and that we can and must do much, much better,” Martin said. “Being average is not good enough. We’re below average now. Good enough is zeroing out.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White outlined how the University can move forward by using education to create a culture of campus safety.

“This was an issue when I was a college student, though never brought to the forefront,” White said. “And to see that while we’ve brought it to the forefront, and we have language, and we’re doing our best to facilitate educating folks about this and encouraging people to come forward, the fact that we’re still dealing with it is really pretty horrible.”

With the results of the Women’s Panhellenic Association survey last fall revealing the rates of sexual assaults by fraternity members and the fact that a new social fraternity, Delta Chi, will be colonizing on campus, discussions about the role of Greek Life on campus came up in the conversation as well.

Associate Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Austin Sandoval-Sweeney, who was in attendance at the session, was receptive to the criticism but remains hopeful about fraternities’ future at the University.

“There’s no working around the reality…” Sandoval-Sweeney said. “I think we’ve often found with new chapters, they typically fill up with men who are interested in giving the community a different narrative and a different set of priorities. Those will be the things that we’re prioritizing as Delta Chi is coming onto the community this spring.”

Freshman Kyra Ruben reacted positively to the administration’s dedication to handling the issue and is waiting to see the changes made in the future.

“I’m looking to see more prevention,” Ruben said. “Students know of resources for after the fact, and even if they are limited, they’re there, and I think those are great and need to be in place, but definitely, more prevention resources for students, education.”

White maintained that the first session will not be the last and that gathering student feedback and planning specific next steps is part of an ongoing process.

Going forward, administrators maintain that they are committed to taking a stand on these issues.

“Understanding the human suffering behind those numbers, that those aren’t numbers, those are people, was really tough…” Webb said. “We have to learn more and we have to keep listening, and this is not the time to give up on work, it’s the time to dig our heels in.”

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