In the second attempt this semester to increase the administration's commitment to preventing sexual assault on campus, representatives from two student groups yesterday demanded better education programs and increased victim support services. Four students, two from Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape and two from the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, presented a statement to Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson, requesting greater administrative support and increased funding for the Women's Center, health education and University Police's Victim Support Services division. They also requested that the administration rework University policies on sexual assault and judicial recourse, saying current procedures are "not sensitive" or "cohesive." The same students last Thursday read the demands to President Sheldon Hackney, who said he would refer the matter to Morrisson. Hackney also said he would give the students a progress report by this Thursday. Morrisson said after yesterday's meeting she is sympathetic to the students' concerns, adding that "they are not new issues, but they are important issues." She said preventing sexual assault is "a top priority" for the student life office. Morrisson said she will refer the requests to the University-wide Acquaintance Rape Working Group started last fall. The committee formed in response to student concerns that the current support services are "overworked," and that University policies regarding sexual assault and judicial review of cases are inefficient and unclear. Because some STAAR members are on the committee and are able to raise these same concerns in committee meetings, the meetings with Hackney and Morrisson have produced no tangible result -- the recommendations have ended up in the same place they started from. But STAAR representatives said they do not think the committee is addressing the issues properly. Presenting their viewpoint directly to administrators, they said, will emphasize their points and could influence how the committee regards their suggestions. STAAR executive board member Nicholas King said the two sessions helped bring the issues into the foreground, adding that "the demands are especially important when coupled with recent events," referring to an alleged sexual assault and a rape that took place during winter break. "The discussions clearly illustrate the frustration that we students feel in every aspect of this issue," King, a College senior, said. "The problem is that the process and procedures within the University administration are not working fast enough to solve the problem of sexual assault." Jane Combrinck-Graham, co-coordinator of the administration's working group, said last night that the 15 group members discussed the issues that STAAR, GAPSA and the UA brought out in their meetings with administrators. But King said he is disappointed with the group's progress on these important issues. "There is not a cohesive goal for the committee to stop rape, to address the needs of every student, to providing adequate resources," the STAAR representative said. Combrinck-Graham, who is also associate director of risk management, said that she had also hoped the committee would be further along in their work, but that members are "moving deliberately, and deliberately means slowly." She said she supports the students' actions today and last week. "I think students have very specific concerns about this issue," she said. "I think they need to continue to bring them directly to the attention of policy makers." King said the students are now waiting for a response from Hackney and Morrisson. He said he hopes that by meeting with administrators, students can bring about a change in University policies, which will, in turn, stop rape on campus.Comments powered by Disqus
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