This editorial discusses sexual assault on campus. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
Georgetown University wants its students to “be heard,” according to the 2019 Campus Climate Survey marketing campaign. And yet, the university’s prolonged delay in hiring a new Title IX coordinator indicates it has no intention to act on student voices.
Georgetown has not had a full-time Title IX coordinator since Laura Cutway abruptly left the position in June 2018. Eight months after Cutway’s departure, the university has hedged and obfuscated, but it has failed to provide students with a full-time coordinator or even a concrete timeline about when one will be hired.
A Title IX coordinator is touted as the first point of contact for survivors looking to file a complaint. To mitigate the current climate of sexual assault at Georgetown, the administration must be more timely and transparent in selecting a full-time Title IX coordinator.
Georgetown students are not safe from unwanted sexual contact, as is evidenced by the abysmal results of the 2016 Campus Climate Survey; 31 percent of female undergraduates reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since entering Georgetown — eight points higher than the average for more than two dozen peer institutions.
Further, about one in 10 male undergraduates reported being a victim of nonconsensual contact at Georgetown, a percentage double the national average. Though both of the high statistics can indicate good reporting, these numbers are nonetheless disappointing.
The university is currently administering its second climate survey. But for these numbers to decrease, Georgetown must improve campus safety and hire a Title IX coordinator.
Without a full-time coordinator, Title IX investigator Samantha Berner has been serving in her own position as well as that of the Title IX coordinator since June.
The lack of a full-time Title IX coordinator means that Georgetown freshmen — the most vulnerable group to unwanted sexual contact — have not had necessary support for their first year of college: The prevalence of sexual assault for female freshmen was twice the rate for seniors, according to the 2016 Climate Survey. Georgetown’s failure to immediately hire a coordinator only exacerbates freshman vulnerability to predators.
The university must also be more transparent about its efforts to fill the position. After Cutway’s departure, Georgetown failed to inform students the position was vacant. After learning about the vacancy through word of mouth, student advocates published a letter in August 2018 urging the university to hire a coordinator and publicly keep the student body updated.
Yet other than a Jan. 18 town hall, Georgetown has failed to be adequately transparent about the process. Information about how close the university is to selecting a coordinator has largely been released by student leaders involved in the hiring process.
Georgetown should increase transparency by periodically sending campuswide emails with updates on the hiring process, posting public notifications and holding more town hall meetings.
Though the university has shown a willingness to solicit student feedback on the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX changes, it has refused to listen to student demands for an expedient hiring process.
Georgetown recognizes the importance of a Title IX coordinator, but the average time to recruit qualified individuals for such a role can last between six to 12 months, according to university spokesperson Matt Hill.
If the university truly prioritized hiring a coordinator, however, it would have done so in the past eight months.
While Georgetown should hasten efforts and increase transparency, students must also participate in the campus climate survey. Data from these surveys are integral in understanding the need for more resources — such as a coordinator — that are critical to ensuring campus safety.
Improving the campus’s sexual assault climate is a clear priority for students; this 2019 GUSA executive election, three of the four tickets indicated they sought to revise the Title IX process or immediately hire a full-time coordinator.
Georgetown should align itself with student priorities and accelerate efforts to select a full-time Title IX coordinator.
Gathering statistics is an important first step to counter Georgetown’s unsafe campus climate, but the university must now resolve the issues behind its harrowing numbers. Stop delaying — hire a coordinator.
This editorial was updated Feb. 8 to reflect that the Title IX office is not involved in the adjudication process.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.
Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727. To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.