Editorials

Editorial: Applauding the sexual assault task force

By
Monday, April 13, 2015

Since last fall, the Task Force on Sexual Assault has worked tirelessly to draft a formalized and comprehensive series of recommendations to more effectively address the pervasive issue of sexual assault on campus. The interim report, published in December, emphasized the pressing need to reform the campus judicial process, expand existing educational and training programs and provide more accessible and transparent resources. President Christina Paxson P’19 approved and set in motion the implementation of most of these recommendations, as she noted in a Jan. 22 community-wide email.

Last Tuesday, the task force published its final report containing 12 main new recommendations. These suggestions included a unified University policy on sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual violence, relationship and interpersonal violence and stalking called the “Policy,” as well as the creation of a Title IX Office overseen primarily by newly-appointed Title IX Program Officer Amanda Walsh.

In its extensive 63-page final report, the task force does well to articulate the substantial progress this academic year and address its three primary responsibilities: sexual assault prevention, student support and advocacy and policies and procedures for sexual misconduct. Nine of the 12 total recommendations set forth in some way involve Walsh, who must  “oversee, coordinate and establish regular communication among offices and staff members involved in Title IX compliance,” Paxson wrote in an April 2 community-wide email.

The task force recommends that the Title IX Office serve as the central resource and primary arbiter of the “Policy.” As the task force notes, the Title IX Office should be charged with enforcing a standardized process and protocol surrounding complaints of sexual assault, overseeing the training and education of appropriate University personnel and disseminating information to the community and University committees. These particular recommendations underscore a concerted effort by the task force to pair clear institutional structure with a transparent and centralized point of oversight, cutting through the unnavigable administrative maze of the past.

These far-reaching structural changes will be paired with mandated educational programs for students, staff and faculty. To continue the conversation beyond campus, the task force also recommends that Paxson appoint a senior officer to the statewide task force on adult sexual assault. The final report demonstrates substantial progress in the ongoing and invaluable conversation surrounding sexual assault on campus. While the initial formation of the task force could have very well yielded marginal results, its transparent process, substantive recommendations and notable milestones underscore the true power of collaboration between students and the administration.

Sexual assault is undoubtedly a sensitive and emotionally charged topic, and the various iterations of recommendations reflect an effective reconciliation of an amorphous and fragile issue with tangible solutions. The task force was able to balance structural changes and administrative centralization with sweeping educational programs that will allow for a heightened degree of awareness and engagement on campus and beyond. We strongly believe that this unified and standardized policy, paired with expanded and centralized resources, will go a long way in preventing future cases of sexual assault while also strengthening the support network for survivors on campus.

We urge Paxson and the administration to maintain their demonstrated focus on the issue and swiftly implement the recommendations put forth by the task force, particularly the “Policy.” Paxson was able to implement the recommendations of the interim report in one month; we push the administration to stick to a similar timeline for this final set of recommendations.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Mathias Heller ’15 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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