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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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White House releases plan to curb campus sexual violence

In the federal government’s most recent written initiative to curb sexual violence on college campuses, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Violence released its first report Tuesday that recommended a set of steps to initiate a new crusade against sexual violence on college campuses.
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said sexual violence is a civil rights issue and is important to focus on because of the negative consequences it has on college campuses.
According to the report, the first step is to identify the extent of the problem with campus climate surveys starting next year. The next step is to implement bystander intervention programs on campus to empower people to intervene when they witness someone in trouble.
Step three in the report is a plan to help schools effectively respond when a student is sexually assaulted with confidentiality protocol, a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy, trauma-informed training for school officials, better school disciplinary systems and partnerships with the community.
The final step is to increase transparency and improve enforcement by clarifying Title IX discrimination protections and encouraging schools to provide interim relief to survivors until sexual assault investigations are finished.
The report states that under Title IX, which was part of the Education Amendment of 1972, students have a right to expect support and protection from their university if they report a case of sexual violence, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Charley Clark, associate vice president for University Risk and Compliance and A&M’s Title IX Committee chair, said Obama’s formation of the task force was essential to fostering a healthy campus environment.
“It is very important,” Clark said. “It’s about access to programs and making sure that there is not a hostile environment at any University so that each person has equal access to all of the programs that are offered.”
“Sexual violence is a form of sex discrimination and its presence on campuses, if not addressed by the schools, can limit the opportunity of women, girls, men and boys to fully participate and benefit from the education provided by the schools,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett said the report is just the first step to changing the culture of college campuses to one free of sexual violence.
“This report will provide a healthy roadmap for campuses and all of us to follow as we move toward a future free from sexual assault,” Jarrett said. “It’s an important step forward and we look forward to working with colleges, essential stakeholders, students, lawmakers, all moving forward in this effort because this challenge is one that will require everybody’s participation because it’s not just a matter of passing laws or issuing regulations.”
Cynthia Hernandez, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said there are a number of online resources for A&M students that include information on Title IX, student assistant service and Student Rule 47, which addresses sexual harassment.
“All of those sites also have information about confidential reporting options where students can go both on-campus and in the community to report confidentially,” Hernandez said.
Clark said he found the report comprehensive and that it provided valuable insight into what the task force thought needed to be addressed by schools across the country.
Clark said there are multiple people at A&M who work at keeping A&M compliant with the Title IX rules for sexual harassment, and Tuesday’s report is the most recent set of guidelines from the national government for guidance in compliance.
The report comes in the wake of other recent initiatives put forth by the federal government to raise awareness of the sexual violence at universities. Hernandez said the Violence against Women Act of 1994, which was reauthorized in 2013, and the Title IX Dear Colleague letter of 2011, have also given guidance to universities.
Hernandez said more work still needs to bedone beyond what was recommended in the initial report.
“The one thing I think the report might not have highlighted is this happens to our young men and our young women,” Hernandez said. “It’s not just women who are being assaulted.”
Tony West, associate attorney general of the U.S., said the federal government will be allocating $400 million this year to improve and increase resources related to addressing sexual violence issues.
Hernandez said she hopes taking actions such as those recommended by the White House Task Force will eventually render discrimination a non-issue.
“I applaud them for continuing to bring a significant issue, a serious issue, to light and then helping colleges and universities in their efforts to address the issue,” Hernandez said. “We want to provide the environment for our students, men and women, that’s free from discrimination and free from sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

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