As students continue to push for campus reform surrounding sexual assault awareness and prevention, the Student Association (SA) proposed the introduction of a mandatory class to be taken for credit as a possible solution.
During a Sept. 15 SA meeting, former Binghamton University Council Rep. Willa Scolari, a junior majoring in psychology, announced that she had met with campus officials to discuss increasing sexual assault awareness and education on campus. Scolari met with Andrew Baker, Title IX coordinator, Paola Mignone, director of Residential Life, and Kimberly Peabody, director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services (HPPS).
SA President Khaleel James, a senior double-majoring in economics and human development, explained the creation of a mandatory class could be difficult to make a reality.
“A mandatory course is not easy to put together, but if a professor would be willing to step up and teach the course, that would definitely be the first step,” James wrote in an email. “From my conversations with the administration, no one is opposed to the idea, but that would be adjusting courses in all of our colleges to make it a mandatory course. It is something I could foresee in the future though. One thing I will say is if students push for it as something they seriously value, I think the administration would be willing to make that effort.”
This expansion of efforts to educate students and staff about sexual assault has reached Residential Life, which will cooperate with all continued efforts the University implements to increase sexual assault awareness, according to Mignone.
“Our aim is to reduce obstacles and [eliminate the] fear of reporting and to create a culture that explicitly stands against sexual violence,” Mignone wrote in an email. “Any credit-based initiative requires faculty participation and approval. Should that move forward, Residential Life would be excited to be a partner in creating a class like that proposed.”
On July 14, BU President Harvey Stenger announced 12 actions the University will take to address sexual assault policies. These include an anonymous online reporting site, immediate suspension of campus recognition for Greek life organizations connected to a sexual assault report and the formation of a Title IX Council that meets weekly. Husch Blackwell, a national law firm, is also completing a review of the University’s new and existing practices and programs, which will be completed by the end of the semester.
Increased awareness within the BU student community was sparked by the creation of @shareyourstorybing, an Instagram account that had over 864 posts shared as of Sept. 30. According to the Instagram account’s bio, the account serves as a medium for Binghamton students who are survivors of sexual violence to anonymously share their stories and receive support.
If a new course were to be implemented, Baker said the Title IX office would be “excited” to partner in creating the course. Baker added that Stenger’s reforms have impacted Title IX training across the University.
“President Stenger’s announcement provides staff [the] resources to increase the knowledge base of both students and employees,” Baker said. “This is a key component of working to change the culture around sexual assault and help every person in our community understand their individual role in contributing to that change.”
Mallory Fowler, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said she hopes that a class will contribute to the 12 reforms that the University is implementing and hopes that these reforms will create positive change within the BU community.
“The most important thing I believe is making sure our students know where their resources [are] and who they can confidentially and privately talk to about assault,” Fowler wrote in an email. “The most important thing for [BU] to do is to continue to enforce a standard that we do not tolerate sexual assault, and that we take all cases very seriously.”
On Sept. 21, the Women’s Student Union (WSU) released a call to action for BU with regards to sexual assault on campus. Among the 11 demands was the abolition of all Greek life institutions on campus, a new mandated education program for all students that discusses sexual assault and the removal of Baker, Mignone and Student Conduct Director Jazell Johnson from their respective positions. WSU also demanded an on-campus Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCCE) to have a physical space for survivors to visit for support.
On Tuesday, a resolution was introduced to the SA to be voted on in their next meeting to state support for a VARCCE.
“This resolution will call upon [BU’s] administration to improve the resources available to students after experiencing trauma,” the proposed resolution reads. “It will show that not only the [SA], but the student body in general stands behind survivors of sexual assault. It shows that we recognize the problem at hand and intend to address it. It allows the SA to uphold our responsibility, which is advocating for the student body.”
Victoria Barics, a sophomore double-majoring in psychology and philosophy, politics and law, also thinks a mandatory class would be beneficial.
“I believe having a class on this in a student’s first semester could mitigate that vulnerability,” Barics wrote in an email. “This class would help provide awareness to potential victims, but ultimately it is up to those who commit acts of sexual assault to change their ways.”