The SMART Resolution is evidence that student leaders understand the problems of the community and can work to fix them

Last Tuesday Student Council passed the Sexual Misconduct Awareness, Recovery, and Tangible resolution, which was written with input from One Less, Take Back the Night and the Sexual Misconduct Board. The resolution includes seven main proposals, each of which we analyze and assess in this editorial.

The first proposal calls for training all entering first-years in bystander intervention. The concept of bystander intervention is not only key in maintaining the University’s “community of trust,” it also gives everyone an active role in preventing sexual misconduct. We want to live in a community where all members prevent rather than facilitate sexual assault. Simply refraining from perpetrating it is not sufficient.

The second proposal calls for more training for University employees, or “mandated reporters.” The nature of such training is still ambiguous, as the resolution states it will be developed with “significant student involvement.” As of now, such a statement is too broad to make a judgment on its probable effectiveness, though the intent, along with the rest of the resolution, is positive.

The third proposal demands the University community regularly receive information on “the number and types of Sexual Misconduct cases that are referred to the University, the number and types of cases tried by the Sexual Misconduct Board, and their results.” The dissemination of this information makes the students aware of the SMB’s regular proceedings, bringing the problem out into the open. Sexual assault cannot continue to be relegated to a dark corner of the University community where no one talks about it, and no one is certain what the SMB is doing. Though the actual hearings must remain closed to the public and the information which is made public must be scrubbed to protect students’ privacy, any information about the frequency of referral and the nature of the offenses and outcomes will makes students more aware of the potential avenues of justice — and perhaps, its potential miscarriages.

The fourth and fifth proposals expand upon the third’s goal of transparency and accountability. Student Council demands students be in charge of identifying candidates to sit on the SMB, that the selection process be more open and that the SMB member’s names and contact information be visible on its website. These changes would give the student body more say in deciding who will be in charge of assessing which students we no longer want as members of our community. While it is important the process remain selective and not random in order to produce SMB members who are trained to deal with the difficult nuances of these issues, involving students more in the selection process can assure the SMB represents the interests of the student body as best as possible.

The sixth proposal calls for a survey of the student body to assess “the current state of our Sexual Misconduct problem.” While the successfulness of surveys can be limited by the problem of self-selection, the more information we can garner about sexual assault at the University, the better. The quality of the information will depend on the participation rate and the actual survey questions, which are yet undetermined. But hopefully Student Council will continue to seek input from the groups who participated in crafting these resolutions when crafting the survey. Useful information would tell us how many students have experienced sexual assault and how many reported it, to assess what reporting rates are. Such information can help pinpoint what the next step should be.

The final proposal demands there be a policy stipulating each survivor who makes a report to the University Police or the Office of the Dean of Students be informed of resources available through the Sexual Assault Resource Agency and be given an advocate if she (or he) wants one. Such access may increase the likelihood that survivors will come forward, and may facilitate the success of their complaints if they do come forward. Victims’ advocates are familiar with all of the resources available to survivors and all of the options for actions they can take. Guaranteeing survivors an advocate sends a message that the system supports them and respects their decisions.

All of these proposals have the potential to make an effective difference in our community, if executed swiftly and proficiently. Student Council, with this proposal, has not only proven their ability to take initiative, they have proven there is still hope in student self-governance. These proposals center around student involvement in official proceedings that maintain the community of trust, and were crafted with input from the student leaders who work most closely with these issues. The proposal is, for the most part, well crafted. Now we must see whether it translates into action. A major body of student government has made a promise to change our community for the better. We must now hold them to that promise.

Published April 22, 2014 in Opinion

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