Update on sexual assault prevention efforts
Dear Brandeis students:
Brandeis is a community that proudly values justice and truth, even when the pursuit of these ideals becomes difficult or uncomfortable. As today is the last day of national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is critical to recognize that sexual violence happens everywhere. Sexual violence is an injustice we at Brandeis will not tolerate.
Recently, there has been a surge of student activity across all facets of our community to combat sexual violence. On April 7, the newly-formed Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) released a comprehensive proposal of specific expansions and improvements to be made on our campus. This proposal has garnered more than 2,500 signatures so far on change.org. I am proud of their efforts and committed to working with students to implement real change for the culture on this campus.
On April 9, I attended Brandeis University’s annual Take Back the Night, co-sponsored by Students Talking About Relationships (STAR), Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), Triskelion (Trisk), and Queer Resource Center (QRC). Each year, I am inspired by the bravery of the survivors and allies who come forward to share their stories. Additionally, as many of you may have seen via social networking websites, a group of students created a blog entitled SpeakOut! Brandeis, which aims to amplify the voices of survivors and initiate an honest dialogue about these issues. I encourage everyone to take a look at the tremendous courage of those who have contributed to the site. Although we never want to think that people in our own community are affected by sexual assault, it is an unfortunate reality we must face together.
Brandeis student organizations, including STAR, Trisk, the Queer Resource Center, Brandeis 6-Talk, and FMLA, have led many of the efforts in raising awareness about sexual assault as well as providing support services to survivors. The Brandeis University administration commends these efforts, as they are truly reflective of the values of our institution. We pledge to continue to support endeavors to combat sexual violence on this campus, and to work closely with students dedicated to these issues. This includes a commitment to transparency.
Combating sexual violence is more than a policy issue. We have already taken many steps, including;
- hiring a sexual assault services and prevention coordinator
- creating a conduct process for sexual assault and harassment that uses a preponderance of the evidence standard and employs a special examiner
- initiating new sessions at orientation from the SpeakAboutIt organization
- providing bystander training for staff, faculty and students.
These efforts are an important start. In the coming weeks, we will publish a comprehensive response to each of the proposals made by B.SASV and widely endorsed by our community.
You may have seen a social media ad from the group Ultraviolet that is part of a national campaign to raise awareness regarding sexual assault and urging colleges and universities, including Brandeis, to respond. We applaud efforts to raise awareness about this widespread problem. We need a culture change in order to break the stigma and silence that places blame on survivors, and creates an unsafe environment.
The new Brandeis Resource Guide for Sexual Assault Survivors is now online. Companion pieces are in the works for faculty and staff, as well as a version focusing on prevention.
We invite you to provide your feedback on this new publication, either to me or to Sheila McMahon. We are also in the midst of developing a new website for sexual assault services and prevention. Students, faculty and staff will have opportunities to provide input on that site this summer, so that it is ready to launch before our new students arrive on campus this coming fall.
With these new resources, along with intensive and collaborative efforts across our community, we are determined to make our campus safe for everyone and to place Brandeis in a national leadership role in addressing sexual assault.Andrew Flagel, PhD
Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment
and Senior Lecturer