Campus forum focuses on sexual assault

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Police Cheif Renee Freeman

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Police Cheif Renee Freeman

Hannah Lentz

Originally published 11/10/14

Sexual assault was the main theme of the campus forum held by Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate on Nov. 6 in the Mary Idema Pew Library. With more than 100 students in attendance, individuals were able to bring forward their university concerns to a panel of related personnel.

The forum was based off a similar event hosted by Student Senate last year that took on a town hall approach to campus-wide communication. This year, Senate President Andrew Plague requested that no media record the event to keep it an open and safe space for everyone in attendance.

The panelists of the night included Director of Public Safety Renee Freeman, Associate Vice President for Affirmative Action and Title IX Officer Dwight Hamilton, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Affairs Marlene Kowalski-Braun and Violence Against Women Act Grant Director Theresa Rowland.

The forum covered topics from the need for improved lighting on campus to gun rights, but the majority of the forum was spent discussing sexual assault with increased awareness on the matter and the Title IX investigation currently underway.

First bringing up the topic of sexual assault procedures was a group of GVSU students who had been protesting on campus before the forum. The group held signs reading statistics of sexual assault instances on campus, many of these facts relating to GVSU directly. The group of students brought up their concerns regarding the punishment of attackers and the number of sexual assault cases on GVSU’s campuses.

“I don’t think there is an increase of crime on campus,” Hamilton said. “More people are aware of the issue and are coming forward with information which is a good thing.

“In instances like this, it is never the victim’s fault regardless of what they’re wearing, where they’re walking or if they consumed alcohol. The responsibility is solely on the attacker and we want to help those in need to find the most comfortable solution. A survivor can always step away from the process at any time, but the door is always open to continue the process.”

Currently at GVSU, depending on the type of report filed, students can meet with campus police, faculty members, the Women’s Center or anyone they feel comfortable disclosing information to. From there, it is up to the victim whether or not police charges or an investigation will be held. Upon further discussion, the definition of sexual assault itself was brought up by Hamilton.

“The actual definition of sexual assault through Grand Valley is broad, and that is one of the things we are looking at so that we can make clear the definition of sexual assault,” he said. “Currently, we are under full cooperation in regard to the Title IX investigation.”

Additionally, the concern regarding timely safety alerts for GVSU students was addressed. With an increase in notifications being sent out, students wondered if notifications were currently being sent out in the most efficient way possible.

“The Grand Valley Police Department strives to provide accurate and timely information,” Freeman said. “Emergency notifications are instant. Timely warnings are issued as soon as we are made aware of the situation and once it is deemed accurate.”

Those wishing for additional information regarding any of the topics addressed at the forum can contact panelists in attendance as well as Student Senate officers.

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