Administrators approved emergency spending for the University's victim support services last week, acknowledging that the current services are overburdened. The emergency spending measure comes in the wake of criticism by several student groups that administrators were dragging their heels in solving the problem. Under the decision, the Women's Center, health education departments and the Victim Support Services Department will all receive extra money to hire new staff. University Life administrator Barbara Cassel said this week that Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson, Senior Vice President Marna Whittington and University Police Commissioner John Kuprevich approved the extra funding as an "interim" measure for the departments until administrators determine the long-term needs of these support groups. An ad-hoc committee is studying the problems of support services at the University. The group, which was established by Morrisson and Whittington, will report its findings by the end of the semester. Last month, representatives from Students Against Acquaintance Rape, the Undergraduate Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly demanded that Morrisson and President Sheldon Hackney broaden existing support services. The students said the three areas are "overburdened," with too few counselors working with too many crime victims. They called for increased funding and administrative support for the three University departments and for better policies for handling sexual violence cases. Cassel said the groups' demands were a major reason for the immediate administration action. "For the [ad-hoc] group to be able to do these things in an effective, long term and lasting way, it takes time," said Cassel, a committee co-chairperson. "So we understood some measures needed to take place immediately." VPUL Morrisson said Wednesday the money for the Women's Center and health education came from her office's "emergency funds," money left over from changes in the office's budget. But Morrisson and Cassel would not say how much money was given to the Women's Center and health education, the two departments under their jurisdiction. Kuprevich would not say how much money was given to the University Police's Victim Support Services. Women's Center Director Elena DiLapi said the funds will be used to hire additional staff members for the center. DiLapi does not yet know how many people she will hire or if they will be full-time or part-time counselors. She said the funds take care of the center's short-term needs, adding that she is confident long-range help is also on the way. "It makes us feel here we're not in it alone and it makes us know there is a commitment from at least part of the administration," DiLapi said. And Director of Victim Support Services Ruth Wells, who is currently the only counselor in the University Police Department, also said the "long-awaited and long-hoped-for" measures will tide her department over until long-term arrangements are made. Wells will hire one new staff person, which she said will help "address the needs we have of giving immediate follow-up service to victims." Students praised the administration for the action, which they said is long overdue. They pointed to three separate committees in the past four years stressing the need for increased support services which have met no active administrative response. But UA Chairperson Duchess Harris said last night administrators have been responsive this school year about this issue. She said this allocation of money shows "once again they were willing to listen to our concerns." STAAR representative Anne Siegle said yesterday she now awaits Morrisson and Whittington's working-group's report. "I know that the momentum is there and administrators really understand the issue and that this is only the beginning," Siegle said.Comments powered by Disqus
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