On Tuesday April 3, the College Senate passed four motions by the Senate Student Affairs Committee recommending new funding lines and changes to the Student Code of Conduct.
These changes would address current shortcomings in the school’s network of resources for helping students deal with sexual assault and other emergencies. The committee recommended to President Christopher Dahl that he create a funding line for “the education and prevention efforts of the Advisory Committee on Campus Security and other participating college offices,” “support the development and funding of a service whereby medically stable students who seek a forensic evaluation by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner are assisted by the college with necessary transportation,” review the organization and procedures of the college’s responses to sexual assault, and support changes to the Student Code of Conduct which “serve to increase the likelihood that students will contact college officials to report and to seek assistance amidst emergencies and crises.”
Since the Sexual Assault Teach-In on March 6, 2011, the college has adopted a new Sexual Misconduct Policy. Administrative Director of Student Health and Counseling Melinda DuBois was appointed deputy Title IX coordinator, and Associate Director of Human Resources and Director of Affirmative Action Gloria Lopez was appointed Title IX coordinator. The Lauderdale Health and Counseling Center has developed and started distributing a new document that clearly delineates the options and resources available to students regarding sexual assault.
“All of the work that [DuBois] and the advisory committee [for campus security] have done has been without a designated funding line,” said associate psychology professor Dan Repinski, chair of the Senate Student Affairs Committee. “We’re looking to add another voice to the conversation and open up funding.”
“We would love a dedicated [budget] line” to fund advocate training and other Title IX training for students, faculty and staff, said DuBois. Training is not the only mechanism that needs funding, as the second and third motions make clear.
“[Associate psychology professor Jennifer] Katz and Melinda [DuBois] have been working hard to set up a transportation service to get students to Strong Memorial Hospital if they need a rape kit,” said senior Catherine Herman.
Currently, there is no place in Livingston County equipped with both the tools and properly trained personnel to administer a forensic rape examination. While Noyes Hospital in Dansville, N.Y. has rape kits, the hospital does not have trained staff to properly administer the exams, leaving Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester as the closest medical center with the facilities and staff necessary for administering a full and proper examination.
Members of Womyn’s Action Coalition as well as other students have been trying to establish a support system for transportation in recent years, though this is the first time the college is considering an officially funded method.
“We have an obligation to provide transportation to students who want that forensic investigation,” said DuBois. She added that a sexual assault response team would support students needing transportation with an advocate and a driver. She also said that the supervisor of Livingston County Rape Crisis Service would train faculty, staff and students to be advocates and that Geneseo First Response and Geneseo Pathways were resources for advocates as well.
Administrative Structure and Procedures
The Senate Student Affairs Committee found that “there appears to be a lack of coordination and communication among those offices responsible [for responding to sexual assault], and there appears to be no coordinated and systematized data collection and record-keeping protocol.” As such, work needs to be done to both coordinate different offices and to create an atmosphere of trust to encourage more students to report when they have been sexually assaulted.
“The fact that we don’t know is scary,” said DuBois. “But it’s not only lack of coordination; some students don’t feel comfortable.”
Some students have expressed concern that reporting to one office may result in bureaucratic finger pointing rather than guided assistance.
“Our goal is that if a student reports, they are directed to the right reporting place and helped by an advocate along the way,” said DuBois. She added that it will be imperative to maintain confidentiality throughout the reporting and response processes.