The University Senate Executive Committee on Friday unanimously approved for review a bill that, if adopted, would make sexual assault education a requirement for all incoming students.
The university’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program offers guest workshops in UNIV 100 courses and by request, but the proposal’s sponsors — including bill author Lauren Redding, a Diamondback editor — said the current regimen lacks consistency and frequency. The senate’s Sexual Harassment Task Force will now review the bill before sending it back to the executive committee by March.
“Too often it’s random who gets this education and who does not,” said Andrea Marcin, former Student Government Association health and wellness director, “and that’s not going to lead to a really healthy sexual climate on campus, where students know about preventing sexual assaults.”
Though the legislation has just passed its first hurdle with the committee’s vote, Senate Chair Martha Nell Smith said the issue hasn’t received enough attention.
“I do think we’ve been kicking the can down the road on this one,” she said.
University policy mandates that only select classes and students involved in Greek life must attend a SARPP presentation. Should the legislation ultimately pass, the organization would begin offering one-hour, in-person presentations to every student in various time slots for students’ convenience, said Stephanie Rivero, SARPP’s assistant director.
“We’re definitely going to be creating a new workshop that involves all of the different topics that we deal with,” Rivero said. “It’ll be all of our presentations boiled down into one.”
SARPP’s presentations are given by peer educators and generally cover a wide range of topics, from bystander intervention to relationship violence and stalking. Though the organization continues working to expand its reach, sexual assault education on the campus is still limited, said Rebecca Krevat, co-founder of the on-campus Jewish feminist group JFem.
“SARPP, as it stands right now, can only reach so many people,” Krevat said.
One in five female students is sexually assaulted at some point in her college career, according to SARPP. At the University of Illinois, which mandates its First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education Program, officials estimate that figure is slightly lower at one in six, according to the McKinley Health Center website.
“Leaving the trust in students is something that hasn’t really been working, because the statistics haven’t really been changing,” Rivero said of this university.
If the mandate comes to pass, Rivero said SARPP would consult with the other schools on implementation.
Making the presentations a requirement for all new students would force SARPP to add more presenters, but Rivero said the group could handle doubling or tripling its current ranks of 18 peer educators.
“The workshops would still be provided by students,” she said. “There would just be a lot more of them.”
The vast majority of students will never commit a sexual assault, but Krevat said anyone can pick up helpful information from a SARPP peer educator.
“Even if people say, ‘I’m not a rapist. I would never rape anyone,’ [if] they are in a situation where they do see someone sexually assaulting someone else,” Krevat said, “they might not know what to do if they didn’t attend one of these presentations.”
Even with the executive committee’s approval Friday, the bill is still far from becoming university policy — after its review by the Sexual Harassment Task Force, the proposal must be voted on by the full body, passed by the senate’s vote and receive university President Wallace Loh’s signature. However, Krevat said she hopes legislation comes to a senate vote by the end of the semester.
Though the process is lengthy — and implementation would require additional time and resources — improving sexual assault education on the campus is critical, Krevat said.
“It will empower students to make healthy, consensual and enjoyable sexual decisions, rather than ones that leave them with dissatisfaction, guilt and, yes, assaults,” she said.