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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

B.SASV issues progress report

Published: November 20, 2014
Section: Front Page, News

Brandeis University failed to measure up to most of the requests made by Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV), according to a “progress report” published by the club this week. The report was an update of the group’s April petition for a stronger university response to sexual violence and assault on campus, and featured letter grades added to document’s sections. The grades reflected B.SASV’s opinion of Brandeis’ response to each request, was never higher than a B+. Of the 11 grades given, there were four F grades, five in the D range, a B+ and a B-. Each section featured long descriptions detailing ways the administration could continue to improve.

The harshest grades in the progress reports, the Fs, were given to what B.SASV saw as severe failures, including not hiring a professional “permanent on-call crisis response counselor.” No such position exists at Brandeis, though the administration has supported training student counselors. B.SASV asserts in the report that a “trained, on-call professional” is better suited for this position. An F was also given to the administration’s failure to initiate a “comprehensive, long-term campaign” to combat rape culture on campus, as well as the Department of Community Living’s failure to require “awareness of non-abusive sexual behavior and list of resources” as part of the university’s party registration system. Active recognition of these issues by the Brandeis administration would lift a large burden from student activists, and work against a hostile and unsafe campus environment, according to B.SASV.

The report also came down harshly on the general lack of accessible safety networks for students. While praising the hiring of Sheila McMahon last spring, B.SASV criticized the administration for not requiring student club leaders to undergo active bystander training, in order to work towards a “community response to sexual violence.” Other New England universities, including the University of New Hampshire, have extensive training programs to fight sexual violence in student clubs and at events. “The majority of the responsibility to improve resources and support survivors has always been placed on students,” said B.SASV member Ava Blustein ’15. “We are constantly trying to make sure the university and its employees are actively working on these issues.”

Slightly less harsh grades, in the C and D range, were given to institutional problems at Brandeis, including the low engagement of university resources to combat sexual violence. B.SASV also drew attention to the fact that Brandeis has still not outlined a timeline for the establishment of a permanent rape crisis center, something The Hoot reported on as being actively planned in a previous story. A recurring demand in these sections was transparency between students and the administration, the report often citing “hearing from” various Brandeis officials about progress but not being able to view or assist the process. Grady Ward ’15, a student union representative to the Brandeis Board of Trustees, also reached out to B.SASV, according to Blustein. “We hope to have further meetings with our student representatives so that we can begin a productive collaboration with the Board of Trustees,” Blustein said.

Even positively-graded sections received criticism about a lack of transparency. B.SASV praised the addition of Kristin Huang and others at the Psychological Counseling Center, but requested more progress in the area of establishing long-term support. The progress report also mentioned necessary technical improvements for resources designed to help survivors of assault make a report to Brandeis, which some students have called “confusing … and impersonal,” according to the document.

The progress report concludes by praising student activism, but making it clear that completely student-run programs, including a rape crisis center, are far from ideal. “The model which currently stands is missing the key structure of professional paid staff,” said the report. “[Student activists] should not be expected to run the center or act in the way a trained professional would.” The document states that B.SASV hopes to work with the administration more to create a rape crisis center and improve conditions on campus, but does not have a clear enough response from the administration for when this would occur.