By Maddie Cullerton
According to Union’s 2009 Survey on Sexual Assault and Harassment, 16 out of the 290 women respondents said they had been raped and 45 said they had been bullied into sexual actions when they had initially said no.
That’s higher than the National U.S. Department of Justice findings on sexual assault in undergraduate women and presents a sobering issue to Union College. Orchestrated by the Union College Committee on Sexual Assault and Harassment, the survey’s findings have inspired action towards solving this problem. “That’s what we’re trying to do, to change the way we do things,” Dean of Students Steve Leavitt said.
Over the summer, Leavitt and the committee have brought in experts to analyze the situation and find the best solutions. One such change in policy would be a Sexual Assault Response Team.
Centralized in the Counseling Center, the small group of trained counselors would offer be a more supportive, comfortable environment for victims to report and view all their options. Both reporting and student attitudes must change, argues Professor Andrew Feffer of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Committee.
“Union is not that different from most other colleges, but it seems to be a bit worse in the extent to which student social life revolves around alcohol and drug consumption in male-dominated spaces like fraternities,” where most of the reported sexual assaults happened.
Sari Greenberg ‘13 notes that people get away with harassment at fraternities in part “because it’s a giant group of guys and people aren’t willing to stand up to them. Drunk guys think it’s acceptable, but it’s not.”
Union plans to hold small meetings throughout the year with targeted groups to start working on those very attitudes.
“Union students need to understand that they are going to be engaged in a hookup scene and that they ought to realize that there are emotional consequences to that. If you are a guy, you have to be extra careful that your partner wants to do everything you want them to do…same for the women,” Leavitt said.
Some Union students do not know that there is a place to report sexual assault or that Union has taken the issue seriously. When Katherine Murray ‘13 was asked about her opinion on Union’s response to sexual harassment and assault she asked, “What response?”
This coming year, Union hopes to change all that, with new policies going into effect as early as January and outreach programs starting on campus. “Whatever the causes, Union is going to have to engage in a more serious effort to address the problem, whether by systematically changing the institutional culture, by educating students, or by mounting a high-profile campaign to encourage a change in student attitudes,” Feffer said.