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RA's and GA's may face new programs next year in response to the sexual assault climate survey.

Credit: Julio Sosa , Julio Sosa

The Undergraduate Assembly has been discussing the possibility of a new discussion-focused RA/GA program in light of the troubling results of the AAU Campus Climate Survey.

In the survey, almost a third of Penn’s female undergraduates reported that they had been sexually assaulted. Now, the UA has been debating implementing meetings between RAs and GAs and their freshman halls to promote conversation about the topic.

The idea of using RA/GAs to facilitate conversation among undergraduates was first proposed by New Student Representative and College and Engineering freshman Aren Raisinghani.

UA Communications Director and College sophomore Sola Park said that RAs and GAs were selected as a focal point of the initiative because they could provide a “safe space for conversation.”

“Some of the centers on campus are not always so accessible for freshmen because they are still new, so we were discussing what would be a good alternative,” Park said.

The survey also showed that rates of reported assault are particularly high among freshman undergraduate women. UA President and College senior Jane Meyer said that these statistics prompted the UA to think of programs that could reach out to that particular population.

“What we have now during NSO is bigger presentations with not a lot of follow ups,” Meyer said. “But learning often happens in smaller groups where you can discuss the issues at length — and there isn’t really a forum for that.”

Meyer said that the UA has been focusing on ways to prevent sexual violence on campus for many years. This fall, it launched Penn Anti-Violence Educators, a project that promotes peer-to-peer education about sexual assault.

However, Meyer said that the results of the Survey indicate that more work needs to be done.

“We have to target this problem of sexual violence in a new and different way,” Meyer said.

But both Park and Meyer said that the program is still in its discussion phase. UA members agree that conversation about sexual assault is necessary, but there has been disagreement about the feasibility of this program.

“We weren’t sure if RAs and GAs are the best individuals for this program. And then there is also the practicality issue — can we get busy Penn students all together at the same time?,” Park said.

The UA is optimistic about programming, though. Meyer said that although she could not comment on the likelihood of the RA/GA program actually being instated, administrative support for new projects is always very strong,

“Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll be able to see some new programming that hasn’t existed before that will improve the climate of this campus,” Meyer said.

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