Posted by The Editorial Board
College is a place for students to discover themselves and enrich their lives academically and socially. While college is a great place for this sort of engagement because it is a small community, there are still risks related to personal respect and boundaries... Sexual assault, especially on college campuses, is a persistent problem involving a lack of respect.
College is a period when many come to understand themselves: what they want, the kind of person they wish to become and their place in society. Having to worry about their safety while dealing with personal growth is a difficult endeavor that no one should have to experience. Fortunately, at Skidmore, issues of sexual misconduct are actively addressed to prevent as many incidences as possible. Many organizations on campus have publicized this issue, including Skidmore's chapter of "VOX" and the Center for Sex and Gender Relations.
This Valentine's Day, VOX collaborated with other Skidmore groups like the Feminist Action Network, the International Student Union, the Gender Studies and Social Work departments, The Christian Fellowship, Hillel, The CFSGR, and Pride Alliance in a campaign called "One Billion Rising," which raises awareness about incidents of sexual misconduct. The demonstration will involve putting 1,000 blue flags and 262 black flags on the green. Each blue flag represents 1.2 million women throughout the world who will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes while each black flag represents 1.2 million men worldwide who will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lives.
Not only are student-run clubs responding to sexual misconduct, but the administration as well has implemented programs. For instance, the "sexual assault response task force" is a program that was a response to an incident in 2009. According to its homepage on Skidmore's website, the force was made up of students and staff of the Student Affairs Council and aimed to "create a disciplinary process that treats all those involved with dignity, respect, honor, and fairness."
The task force created policies concerning sexual misconduct that were informed by the most current research and consulted one of the nation's leading experts on the issue through training and workshops.
The task force said their ultimate objective was to create a disciplinary system to "create an environment in which students who have been sexually assaulted feel confident in coming forward." The task force set out to create a system through examining the following five major dimensions of the issue of sexual misconduct:
? Education- How can our professional staff in Health Promotion and peer advocates in our Center for Sex and Gender Relations encourage and expand this conversation?
? The intake process- the manner in which the school intakes and processes the initial report of an incident
? Case management, referral, and follow-up- providing advocates to both the complainant and respondent for support through the disciplinary process
? Campus Disciplinary Process Options- What adjudicative process will meet our standard for fairness while allowing both individuals involved to tell their story and to maintain their dignity?
? Training- Everyone who plays a responding role in cases involving sexual assault must be well trained in assisting both sexual assault complainants and respondents from the moment a report is received through the end of a disciplinary hearing and beyond
Skidmore works hard to reassess their approach to addressing sexual conduct. Every year the sexual misconduct policies are reviewed. Similarly, on a national level, sexual misconduct has been addressed with greater urgency. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights issued a "Dear Colleague Letter" to all colleges that provided guidelines for sexual misconduct policies. As a result in the last few years there have been many conferences, trainings, and reports around the country concerning sexual misconduct in colleges.
Currently, Skidmore is reviewing their policies and have just decided to have a new speaker give the sex talk, which all first-year students are required to attend.
The new speaker will focus more on sexual misconduct than speakers in the past. Skidmore may want to consider reformatting these sex talks, though, due to past shortfalls in attendance, and consider modeling them after the mandatory fire safety and campus safety talks in which attendance can be more feasibly enforced.
Through efforts such as these and continued support of clubs, Skidmore continues to work towards becoming a safer community. It is important that in our college days, when students are enjoying the start of adulthood, establishing their identities and making life-long relationships, that they are as removed from harmful scenarios as possible. Skidmore has thus far done a job well done. Unfortunately, this is a job that will likely never be done but with the continued efforts in revision and review we see opportunity for greater social change and awareness surrounding the issue.