Student Council’s representative body approved SB21-18, which will amend Student Council bylaws to create the Survivor Support and Prevention Coalition and Advocacy Board, at its weekly meeting Tuesday night. The bill was passed unanimously.
Abel Liu, chair of the representative body and third-year College student, and third-year College student Rep. Ryan Alcorn sponsored the resolution.
The coalition was first proposed in a report released in December by the Student Council Prevention & Survivor Support Ad-Hoc Committee, a student committee created last April to review the University’s sexual assault and gender based violence prevention methods and survivor support. The coalition is meant to implement the recommendations made in the report and will serve as the institutionalized version of the ad-hoc committee, which was created by a Student Council bill to examine this issue more in depth.
The resources the University currently offers include confidential advocates, a sexual assault survivor support group as well as counseling through the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Health Center, counseling and medical services through Student Health — including LGBTQ+ healthcare services — and the Just Report It website. The University also provides information for services in the Charlottesville community, including the Sexual Assault Resource Agency and Shelter for Help in Emergency. Some have expressed that these resources are not enough for students, however.
The ad-hoc committee was co-chaired by fourth-year College student Gabi Szabó and Noah Strike, director of University relations for Student Council and third-year College student.
The main goal of the Coalition will be to improve coordination between different groups advocating for survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence as well as between these groups and University staff.
“They’re already doing so much,” Szabó said. “I want this to be a place for them. I want this to be a place where they can talk to each other.”
During the public comment at the Student Council meeting Tuesday, Ellen Yates, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, read a comment submitted by Eve Hammerle, fourth-year College student and a former member of the ad-hoc committee.
“Given that most student groups involved in survivor support/advocacy have no institutional support, having a committee on [Student Council] would ensure that this issue is high on the University’s agenda and more attention is brought to it,” Hammerle’s statement read
The coalition will be led by representatives and stewarded by Student Council, which will provide it with the resources and support it needs. The coalition plans to include representatives from Hoos Got Your Back, Culture of Respect Educators, OneLove, Take Back the Night, U.Va. Survivors, Peer Health Educators and interns from the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center. It will also include either the chair of the Student Council Safety and Wellness Committee or the chair of the Student Council Student Life Committee.
The Coalition will also offer counsel to several University offices, including Housing and Residence Life, Student Health and Wellness, Fraternity and Sorority Life, the University Police Department, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, among others. The members of the ad-hoc committee hope to get the University offices to listen more closely to the demands and needs of student advocates.
“A lot of the staff are also doing great work, some of the staff just don’t know,” Szabó said. “It’s hard to know what students want when they can’t hear them.”
Before voting on the legislation, Liu voiced his support for the resolution.
“I think it’s an honor that Noah [Strike] and the associated groups felt that they could trust Student Council to steward this group from year to year,” Liu said. “We should definitely treat that with respect and pass this, like I said last week, with flying colors.”
Student Council meets weekly on Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are livestreamed and students can access the meeting on Student Council’s website.