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University Survivors Movement criticizes U. handling of sexual violence

Student organizers distribute posters over weekend, place on prominent locations throughout campus

By the time most students were getting out of bed and wandering around campus Monday morning, posters criticizing the University administration’s approach to addressing sexual violence had been taped to the doors of University Hall, Sayles Hall and other prominent locations on campus. 

The posters lambaste University leadership, claiming that “BROWN UNIVERSITY has a sexual violence problem. And our administration doesn’t care.” 

Other posters with resources for survivors of sexual violence were also put up by students, who originally picked them up on the front steps of Faunce from University Survivors Movement organizers over the weekend. 

The University Survivors Movement is a coalition of student activists that aims to pressure college and university administrations across the nation to take more action to prevent sexual assault on their campuses, coalition organizers Carter Woodruff ’21.5 and Amelia Wyckoff ’22 said.

The socially-distanced protest on campus Monday coincided with similar action being taken by coalition members at campuses across the United States, including Arizona State University, Boston University and the University of Notre Dame, according to Woodruff and Wyckoff. 

Citing the national growth of platforms for survivors of sexual violence over the past few months, Woodruff said she saw student survivors and activists as “a nationally-formidable force.” At the University, for instance, the Instagram account Voices of Brown, which Woodruff and Wyckoff are both involved in, highlights survivors’ experiences.

“We need to recognize that it has been a deliberate choice on the part of administrations (across the country) not to prioritize this very, very prevalent and chronic crisis on campus,” Woodruff said. “This (is a) public health crisis and public safety crisis.” 

From its 2019-20 Annual Outcome Report, the Title IX and Gender Equity Office found that there were a total of 109 allegations made in the reporting window of July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, in comparison to the 104 allegations in the 2018-19 report, The Herald previously reported

But according to the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct organized by the Association American Universities and Westat, out of nearly 2,200 undergraduates surveyed, 24.5 percent of women and 8 percent of men reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since coming to Brown. Out of the nearly 3,100 undergraduate, graduate and medical students surveyed, 30.2 percent of trans men or women, genderqueer or nonbinary participants said that they were victims.

On a national level, the AAU also found in its 2019 Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, which surveyed a total of 181,752 students from 33 colleges and universities in America, that 13 percent of women overall experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since being enrolled at their university or college.

“Brown has made it an institutional priority to create an environment in which no incident of sexual violence is tolerated, and the experiences and perspective(s) of students and others impacted by sexual violence have been instrumental in informing the actions we’ve taken,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Since the University began its “aggressive” actions to confront sexual violence on campus in 2014, the campus community has “made meaningful change,” Clark wrote. He cited the creation of a Title IX and Gender Equity Office; implementation of “a unified policy” on sexual and gender based violence; the training of students, faculty and staff across campus; required education for first-year students and the launch and support of peer education programs as among those actions responsible for that change. 

Clark also wrote that that “meaningful change” was reflected in the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct’s finding of “marked improvement” in University students’ perception of sexual assault as a problem on campus and confidence in how the University supports students and resolves complaints. 

According to the survey, 22.1 percent of students “believe that sexual misconduct is very or extremely problematic on campus,” and 66.4 percent “believe that it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would take a report (of sexual assault/misconduct) seriously.”

While the results of the AAU survey “make clear that the collective work of our campus community is having a positive impact,” Clark wrote, “the prevalence of sexual misconduct incidents remains sobering.”

“We remain resolute in our commitment to preventing and responding to incidents,” Clark added. “(We are) encouraging a culture in which every member of the Brown community takes responsibility for addressing this challenge and supporting those who are most directly impacted.”

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Posters that read, “BROWN UNIVERSITY has a sexual violence problem. And our administration doesn’t care,” were placed in prominent locations around campus early Monday morning.[/caption] 












But Woodruff said that she sees the University’s approach and response since 2014 as “inadequate,” arguing that the University views the actions and changes it’s taking as similar to merely “checking off boxes.” 

The administration is “not listening to survivors about the fact that the boxes that have been checked off have not been effective in producing any real change,” Woodruff added. 

“Say 25 percent of women, 8 percent of men and 30 percent of trans and nonbinary students were being punched in the face,” Woodruff said. “Imagine if that was the problem. Brown would be tackling that issue” more seriously.

While Monday’s protest was primarily focused on raising awareness about the issue of sexual violence on campus, Woodruff and Wyckoff said they hope to see more transparency, accountability and support from the University administration. 

“I want each survivor to have a platform to tell the University how they’re being failed and how they could be supported,” Wyckoff said. Survivors “shouldn’t have to prove to anybody that (the University administration) should care about this issue.” 

Woodruff and Wyckoff said that they hope that the University will mandate students and campus organizations to undergo anti-sexual violence and anti-racism trainings each semester and that the administration will consider more accountability measures for those who fail to participate in such trainings, including penalties on those students’ records. They also hope that University leadership and donors allocate more funding to the Title IX office and groups like BWell’s Sexual Harassment & Assault Resources & Education Advocates. 

“The prevalence of violence on campus stymies a lot of progress that the University could be making economically, intellectually and professionally,” Woodruff said. “I want the administration to know that this is worth prioritizing … If we tackled this, we would be revolutionizing what it means to go to college.” 



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