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B.SASV progress report demands further action

Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) issued its second progress report to the university on Monday, calling on the university to hire additional employees, lead a campaign against rape culture, improve the guides outlining resources for survivors and mandate more training for students, faculty and staff. They demand a response from the university by Monday, March 21.

B.SASV members taped a summary of the report and a sign that reads “Louis, You’re Still on Probation” to the statue of Louis Brandeis outside the SCC. Students have been using the hashtag “#StillOnProbation” when sharing the report on social media.

B.SASV released a petition in April 2014 calling for the changes on campus, including the creation of a Rape Crisis Center, but in November of that year they issued its first progress report criticizing the university for moving slowly on the center and failing to address many of their other points. The second report recognizes that Brandeis has taken steps to address sexual violence on campus, but urges swift action to accomplish more.

The 2014 report gave the university an F in four categories and a D in five, pressuring a response from the university. Eight grades increased between reports. However, two remained the same and one grade dropped.

Brandeis received one B, four Cs, six Ds and one F this week. A group of 15 to 20 students have been working on the B.SASV report throughout the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters. The entire report is available on B.SASV Facebook page.

The B.SASV report demands Brandeis address rape culture on campus by funding and organizing a campaign to raise awareness and change attitudes. B.SASV asked Brandeis to spearhead this campaign in 2014, and so the grade for this section remained an F. According to B.SASV, the task of reforming campus culture has fallen to student groups like the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), Brandeis Students for Reproductive Justice and individuals like Victoria Jonas ’15 who created the “It Happens Here” PSA video. B.SASV wants “adult professionals” to fight the rape culture: either an existing employee at the Office of Prevention Services (OPS) or a new hire. “Legally, the presence and pervasiveness of rape culture at Brandeis constitutes a hostile environment, which violates Title IX regulations,” the report alleges.

Last spring, Brandeis released the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Violence with a response rate of 34.5 percent. B.SASV suggests Brandeis create a new survey which mandates participation by placing a hold on the students’ Sage accounts if they do not complete it, for example.

The Rape Crisis Center (RCC), while a hallmark achievement for the university, still has several issues, B.SASV explained. For instance, he space is small and has only one room for private conversations; mandatory reporters work in offices next door, and if any of them overhear a conversation in the RCC they would be required to report it. The RCC is staffed by 10 students and Julia Rickey, the sole “professional survivor advocate.” B.SASV demanded Brandeis hire at least one more professional. Students, they said, could be “rightfully uncomfortable or hesitant” speaking to their peers about sexual assault.

B.SASV also urged that prosocial bystander training should be mandatory for all faculty and staff, Orientation Leaders and Community Advisors, as well as student leaders, athletes and anyone who wants to host a registered party. The Student Union has passed a bylaw requiring all club leaders to complete the training once annual, though it is yet to take effect. CAs and OLs received bystander training during pre-orientation in 2014, but not 2015. DCL is still considering adding a requirement that party hosts complete bystander training. These students, “while encouraged to seek assistance when they witness somebody in distress, are not trained or expected to in any way intervene when suspicious activities are taking place or when they suspect a violation of consent.”

Administrators declined to comment for this story but are preparing a response to B.SASV.

B.SASV also demand Brandeis create a resource clearly outlining services available to survivors. In their response to B.SASV’s first progress report, Brandeis included a flowchart on confidential and non-confidential reporting options, but this week B.SASV asked for a poster that is larger than standard computer paper and “can exist online as an interactive flowchart progressing through questions about reporting, medical care, short and long term counseling, advocacy, housing concerns and barriers to resources (such as language, ability, relationships, support systems).” The group offered to serve as a “focus group” to help Brandeis create this chart. The grade in this section was the highest in both reports, increasing from a B- to a B/B-.

A grade that dropped from a B+ to a D- between reports involves the PCC. Kristen Huang, a counselor who specializes in trauma,  left last year, and B.SASV wants to see a new permanent counselor hired. Rickey is a also PCC counselor who handles sexual assault survivors, but she has other chief responsibilities, said the report.

The letter grade for the Department of Public Safety officers increased from a D- to a C/C-. Fourteen officers participated in a 44-hour course as part of basic training to become “sexual assault investigator certified.” Brandeis officers also participate in annual training, including an online refresher course. However, four officers are exempt from this training so they can be on duty, a problem B.SASV said should be remedied by holding the training more than once.

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