By Ryan Semerad
At the beginning of this term, Union changed its sexual assault policy. The new policy outlines three general categories of inappropriate sexual behavior: sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
In addition to the itemization of offenses, the administration has taken strides to make the new policy more comprehensive and effective by adding specialists in sexual assault to Campus Safety and the Counseling Center as well as streamlining the procedure following an attack.
The administration aims to give victims both more control over the process of identifying and punishing assailants and a greater sense of comfort in coming forward after an attack.
According to the Union College website, the three general categories of inappropriate behavior cover everything from “taking pictures or video or audio recordings of [a] sexual act or any other private act without consent” to any manner of “sexual penetration… however slight, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman without consent.” Complete information regarding the definitions can be found at www.union.edu /sart/assault/index.php .
Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Stephen Leavitt said the impetus for the new policy was that “the administration was not fully supporting victims [in the past].”
To design and reconfigure the new policy, the administration sought the aid of two national experts, the Director of the University Health Center Donna Barry and Chief of Police Paul M. Cell, both of Montclair State University in New Jersey.
These experts came to Union in August 2010 to review Union’s policies and helped implement their Campus Sexual Assault Response Team (CSART) approach into the new policy.
“The key is that victims should feel comfortable coming to us,” said Leavitt.
After speaking with four students about the new policy, most expressed satisfaction with the changes, but remained wary.
“It’s good to know Union is taking further steps for student safety. As a student, that is always comforting,” said Alecia Pickett ’11.
One female student who wished to remain anonymous said she is happy with the itemized offense approach because “there are different degrees of offense.”
She added, “However, [the statistics are] still very upsetting.”
Another female student who wished to remain anonymous said “I definitely feel more comfortable knowing specialists are on hand.”
Finally, one male student who also wished to remain anonymous said “I’m happy the administration is making these changes. This is a really important issue on campus and definitely needs to be addressed.”