GUSA Roundup: Changing Georgetown’s response to sexual assault
This Sunday, GUSA passed two bills concerning sexual assault on campus. “A Resolution Concerning Sexual Assault” addresses the University’s response to the crime and “An Act Concerning SAPE Training for All Members of GUSA” initiates a drive for increased sexual education at Georgetown.
Sexual assault constituted a significant talking point throughout the GUSA election season. The two bills are the culmination of a yearlong dialogue within GUSA to combat the issue on two fronts: policy and culture.
Reforming the policy surrounding sexual assault
President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said, “Over the summer, I knew someone who was assaulted on this campus. The response they received from both the university and the people who had been involved was essentially to sweep everything under the rug. These are things we have to change culturally and with policy.”
Sen. Robert Shepherd (COL ’15) and Sen. Pat Spagnuolo (COL ’14) authored both bills. Introduced to the floor by Spagnuolo, the resolution focuses on the University’s policy.
The bill advocates for the inclusion an amnesty clause in the Student Code of Conduct so that those reporting a sexual assault will not be penalized for potential violations, such as drug use, noise, or alcohol consumption. It also asks for clearer language concerning sexual misconduct (Class B violation) and sexual assault (Class C violation) in the Code of Conduct.
“This resolution is a springboard to pushing the University more and more to address this issue. Survivors right now do not have amnesty if they report. If there are drugs or alcohol on them, that is something that can count against them. There should be no problems if you need to report something like this,” said Spagnuolo.
The bill also encourages the introduction of sexual education as a component of NSO for fall 2013 as well as increased publicizing of protocol for reporting assault.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Beginning to reform the culture surrounding sexual assault
Introduced by Shepherd, the second bill intends to change campus culture towards assault through education. The bill requires of all members of GUSA to complete a one-hour Sexual Assault Peer Education course by Apr. 29th and all future GUSA members to do the same once a year.
Shepherd said, “The reasoning behind this is that we are influential campus leaders and representatives of the students body. In working with the executive, we have the ability to promote education and help prevent this on campus.”
The bill also strongly encourages members of the advisory boards (such as SAC or Club Sports) to take the SAPE course yearly as well. Heated debate broke out over a proposed amendment to require all members of the advisory boards to do so. Failure to comply would preclude them from applying for funding at the yearly Budget Summit.
Sen. Ben Weiss (COL ’15) said, “We have the capacity to ask things of the advisory boards. If they don’t have an hour to spare to learn about one of the most horrific things that can be done to a person, I don’t know what you have time for.”
Spagnuolo responded, “We have mandated ad boards in the past to make budgetary reforms. This is not budgetary reform. This would be us saying we are going to withhold your funding for something that does not have to do with funding. A mandate for the advisory boards is not the place to start.”
The amendment failed. The bill passed unanimously.
Shepherd and Spagnuolo closed the floor to pending legislation by thanking all those involved with getting the bills off the ground.
Spagnuolo ended by saying, “We need to talk about sexual assault in an honest and clear manner. The consent culture needs to happen now at Georgetown.”