EThis week, Georgetown University Counseling and Psychiatric Services announced the introduction of free semester-long services for sexual assault survivors and accused perpetrators. This policy change marks one of many significant achievements for the countless student activists in support of sexual assault policy reform at Georgetown. Following The Hoya’s publication of (“I Stand With Willa, I Stand With Survivors,” The Hoya, A3, July 21, 2015) in July, student activists and members of the Georgetown University Student Association made reforming Georgetown’s sexual assault policies a priority for the 2015-2016 academic year.
One of the central points in the 2015 Sexual Assault Memorandum of Understanding drafted by GUSA and administrators focused on financial support for survivors, emphasizing the additional strain placed on survivors who have to worry about medical costs or paying for tutoring and counseling services. GUSA representatives held regular meetings with administrators and CAPS to negotiate how the university could absorb these costs to remove undue financial burden on survivors.
The new policy providing free semester-long services is a result of numerous conversations between student activists, members of GUSA, university administrators, CAPS and Health Education Services since the summer, addressing both the needs of students and the financial and institutional constraints of the university. It is important to recognize these efforts of sustained student activism, which have allowed numerous changes and initiatives to come to fruition in the past year — including the appointment of Laura Cutway as the first full-time Title IX coordinator and Samantha Berner as the first full-time Title IX investigator. Georgetown also launched the inaugural Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey to assess the prevalence of sexual assault; using the collected data, students and administrators will make a formal recommendation to the university on a comprehensive bystander intervention program by next spring.
While this year has brought significant reforms to Georgetown’s existing sexual assault policies, many on campus have recognized that there is still work to be done. In this regard, the role of this year’s GUSA administration cannot be understated, in terms of both securing numerous policy reforms and laying the groundwork for future change. The resounding victory of Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan’s (COL ’16) satirical campaign last spring and the dearth of competitive tickets this spring — which included the Wisemiller’s Grocery & Deli’s “The Hot Chick” sandwich — point to a disappointing lack of confidence among the student body with regard to GUSA politics.
It is important for us to recognize that, although many institutional reforms might ultimately happen behind closed doors, vocal student activism is necessary to spur this degree of administrative action. The changes achieved for sexual assault reform are a product of countless meetings and hours of work from our elected and appointed student officials. In order to continue to challenge Georgetown to be a survivor-centered campus, it is therefore crucial for students to remain passionate and engaged advocates for survivors, and to not dismiss the important ways in which student representatives on GUSA can drive these changes.