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Univ. response to B.SASV offers clarifications and pledge to launch awareness campaign

Brandeis responded Monday to the second progress report from Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) which graded the university in 12 categories on their handling of sexual assault and rape culture on campus and informed students that some of their requests were already completed. Brandeis also outlined plans to clarify existing services and launch a campus-wide awareness campaign on sexual violence.

B.SASV called for this campaign in their initial April 2014 petition and gave Brandeis an “F” in this category of their subsequent two progress reports for failing to launch anything. The Task Force for Sexual Assault Response, Services and Prevention will work on this project. “We’ll need to solicit campus input before we launch a campaign. We may choose to join a national campaign that already [exists], or to develop our own,” said Sheryl Sousa, co-chair of the Task Force, in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

Successful national campaigns include the White House led It’s On Us campaign and the One Love Foundation, said Sousa. BMen (Brandeis Men’s Group) and One Love will co-host a presentation for student-athletes this week.

After B.SASV released its first progress report in November, 2014, Brandeis responded category-by-category. This year, a campus-wide email listed 13 “clarifications” of items in the report and a five-point list of future steps. A separate message to B.SASV described specific plans in a 17-row table.

Regarding the Psychological Counseling Center, B.SASV had said the PCC was in the process of replacing their departed trauma specialist and stressed the importance of having someone in this position. However, the PCC hired two part-time counselors to ensure “[t]he number of available hours for survivors seeking counseling has been maintained” while conducting the search, according to Brandeis’ response.

B.SASV also stressed the importance of hiring additional PCC counselors who speak world languages (noting one counselor is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese). Brandeis clarified “treatment is available in French, German, Hebrew, Mandarin and Spanish.” B.SASV had also cited Korean and Hindi as essential.

The report criticized a PCC proposal to restrict students from receiving 12 free sessions which was never put in place. Michael La Farr, executive director of health and wellness confirmed there had been no changes in a September interview with The Hoot. B.SASV inserted a clarification of this prior to Brandeis’ official response.

The progress report demanded Public Safety create an anonymous feedback form, which already exists. B.SASV also requested Brandeis translate the sexual assault Survivor’s Guide be translated into other languages. The administration’s response links to Chinese and Arabic translations, as well as the anonymous feedback form on Public Safety’s website.

For the safety of survivors, administration found clarifications necessary. “One of our greatest concerns is that misinformation will inhibit survivors from seeking resources,” said the response.

B.SASV took issue with the “tone” of the message. In response to the quote above B.SASV said, “What inhibits survivors from seeking resources is not having the resources exist in a fully-funded and accessible manner, which is what the Progress Report detailed,” in a statement to The Brandeis Hoot. B.SASV, again, called on Brandeis to enact change. “It is the job of the university to properly disseminate information so that all students understand,” said the statement.

Administrators pledged to address campus-wide confusion by improving information online and launching campaigns. They will update websites to “clarify important information for survivors such as knowing the RCC 24/7 phone line provides access to a licensed therapists at all times and that there is no limit for survivors seeking resources at the PCC,” wrote Sousa. B.SASV had criticized confusion regarding where after-hours calls are transferred. Administrators also told B.SASV said they will launch awareness campaigns for PCC, OPS and RCC resources.

Brandeis acknowledged that lack of transparency regarding Task Force activity has made it difficult to find up-to-date information. Sousa and co-chair Kim Godsoe will “improve website postings for the [Task Force] to include current topics of discussion and action items” by April, according to the document sent to B.SASV.

B.SASV also called for changes to party registration policies—mandating that hosts are bystander trained and updating signs posted outside parties with information on campus resources. Brandies promised to revise party policies in the campus-wide email, and Sousa said “seeking community input and looking at best practices” will inform any changes.

Administrators promised to improve signage for the RCC, which is inadequate, according to B.SASV, as the building’s door lists only OPS. B.SASV also demanded Community Advisors and Orientation Leaders participate in bystander training. Brandeis’ response notes CAs and OLs did participate in a “sexual misconduct prevention” training with True to Life this year. This is not bystander training, but does teach CAs about their role as mandatory reporters. B.SASV also proposed the “Get Help” posters inside bathroom stalls be translated into “at least Spanish, Mandarin and Korean,” which Brandeis said it will do.

Sousa, Godsoe, Provost Irv Epstein and Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel signed the responses.

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