In response to increasing student concerns regarding sexual violence at Binghamton University, BU President Harvey Stenger announced the establishment of a Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC).
In a B-Line News Addition on Dec. 2, Stenger confirmed a VARCC would be operational for the spring 2021 semester and that a working group is currently being assembled to determine the most appropriate location for the VARCC on campus. It has not yet been announced what services will be provided nor what staff will reside in VARCC offices. Prevention educators, counselors, social workers, members of the Consultation, Advocacy, Referral and Education (CARE) Team and others across campus who provide supportive services will be in charge of staffing the center. Stenger said VARCC will support students by consolidating information, thus making the process of getting help easier on survivors.
“Further, we anticipate offering space to the community-based Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) to provide services as well,” Stenger announced. “Our collective goal is to provide an easily accessible space where someone in need of help and support can seek assistance without visiting several campus offices.”
Student concerns surrounding sexual violence increased over the summer after the creation of @shareyourstorybing, an Instagram account that has over 880 posts shared as of Dec. 6. According to the Instagram account’s bio, the account serves as a medium for BU students who are survivors of sexual violence to anonymously share their stories and receive support. On July 14, in response to this raise of awareness, Stenger announced 12 actions the University would take to address sexual assault policies. These reforms included 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.
In response to Stenger’s announcement, the Women’s Student Union (WSU) released a list of demands on Sept. 21 for how the University should address sexual violence. In the 17-page letter to BU administration, they called for the establishment of VARCC along with other demands, including the abolition of Greek life.
Alexandra Miranda, president of WSU and a junior triple-majoring in sociology, human development and Latin American and Caribbean Area studies, said she had a mixed reaction to Stenger’s recent announcement of the VARCC’s implementation, as there was little communication between WSU and the University. She added that she felt that the announcement didn’t have enough details about the creation of a VARCC.
“A small part of me was happy, but, I’ll be honest, I do not have much faith in the University and administration, so I am afraid that VARCC will have the same people who we have pointed out in our statement, in their same positions doing the same work, thus causing the same harm,” Miranda wrote in an email. “We called for certain administrators to be removed and for 16 new professional counselors specifically trained and experienced in treating sexual and interpersonal violence for a reason. If VARCC has the same people in power and is understaffed, it will not be as effective for survivors as we had hoped.”
Miranda said the creation of VARCC is not the solution to combatting sexual assault at BU, and the University should listen to all of WSU’s demands, as VARCC was just one of them.
“We hope that VARCC moves away from carceral feminist movements and works toward defunding [Binghamton’s New York State University Police] and [the Binghamton Police Department],” Miranda wrote. “We demand a full transparent breakdown of VARCC. We demand that a percentage of dues be paid by all fraternity and sorority members go toward VARCC and CVAC, this is prior to the University-wide disbandment of Greek life. We want the University to know that our demands do not stop at VARCC and that we will continue to push for all of our demands and that is including the abolition of Greek life.”
Maggie Koekkoek, executive vice president of the Student Association (SA) and a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, said VARCC is being established by the University, but the SA continues to advocate in favor of the establishment of VARCC.
“We have been working adamantly to advocate for it and have made our positions clear to the administration on what we would like to see, however, we are not really involved in the actual creation process,” Koekkoek said.
Sophia Romero, an undeclared freshman, said that in addition to the establishment of a VARCC, there should also be a new system to hold those accused accountable.
“When you read a lot of the stories that people share, there are so many of them where the perpetrators were able to get away with it,” Romero said. “Whether it’s people from [Residential Life] or someone in Greek life, a lot of times it seems like [BU] is protecting them.”
Angelina Hammond, an undeclared freshman, said the creation of VARCC would be beneficial to the student body as a whole.
“It’s not even a want, at this point, something like [VARCC] is a need,” Hammond said. “[@shareyourstorybing] should have never needed to be made. The administration needs to step it up when it comes to helping people who’ve gone through that kind of trauma, and a good crisis center is one step closer to making the school a better place for those people.”