Laura Cutway began as Georgetown’s first dedicated, full-time Title IX coordinator Jan. 11, replacing temporary coordinator Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny.
Cutway will be responsible for enforcing Georgetown’s sexual misconduct policy, investigating sexual misconduct and leading the school’s sexual misconduct education efforts.
Cutway previously served as the sexual assault and relationship violence liaison in Health Education Services at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she was charged with confidentially assisting survivors of sexual assault and raising awareness about sexual assault. Before that, Cutway served as director of the Office of Disability Services at the Law Center and the learning disability coordinator at the Catholic University of America.
Cutway earned a Master of Science in counseling and human relations from Villanova University, where she also earned her undergraduate degree.
In an interview with The Hoya, Cutway discussed Georgetown’s current climate toward sexual assault, her plans for the role and why she has pursued a career in social work.
What does Georgetown do well with regard to addressing issues of sexual assault, and what can it do better?
I think naturally I’m very proud of Georgetown and the way that they’ve handled sexual misconduct, and the stakeholders that have been involved — they’ve been very active in this arena for years. We’ve had a sexual assault working group for over two decades; people that have been very passionate about this work. I think the depth of our resources is one of our biggest strengths right now; we have many people devoted to this work. We have three full-time, confidential counselors.
I think our [Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey] that we just launched is a huge strength right now; it’s actually a really ideal time for me to join the team. I’m going to get hopefully a lot of really good information from that that I can then use to prioritize my initiatives moving forward. … In terms of things we could do better, I’m going to take a lot of guidance from the climate survey, to see what actually is going on on campus. I’m going to take a lot of that feedback from the students to see where I need to prioritize my initiatives.
I think, in general, educating 18,000 people on this issue is probably the area we need to do more work with — it’s a challenge. Just the numbers alone, it’s a big school, it’s hard to get people all on the same page about where to go, what all these definitions mean, what are the roles of certain people, so I think that in itself is a challenge … Streamlining some processes will help in navigating ‘who does what?’ and ‘where do I report things?’ and ‘what does that actually mean?’
What are your long-term goals for Georgetown in regard to sexual assault?
I’d love to get rid of sexual assault completely on campus, but I think, more realistically, providing a framework and confidence in our system so that people know what they would be getting involved in if they were to report, that they feel comfortable in that process, and confident in that process, that they’ll be able to feel heard throughout the process, both complainants and respondents. I want everybody to feel like it’s an equitable process and that along the way they have these resources that can help them, guide them, help them figure out what’s the best decision for them … As long as that whole process works, I think that would be a great place for the school to be in.
With that, [I hope to implement] some prevention mechanisms [like] bystander intervention … if I can build that training … [to shift] the culture to be a place where we take care of one another. And I think we do [that] in many ways, but to really give people the courage and empower them to actually stand up when they see that something doesn’t feel right.
What will having a dedicated, full-time Title IX Coordinator bring to Georgetown? Why is it important?
It’s hugely important. I think there are … many people doing really good work, but it’s often in addition to the other good work that they’re doing. [As a full-time person], I’ll have the time and the space to be able to really devote to what this role needs. And I think having a person that can see all the different themes that are emerging and see all the different needs, I can pull together and help manage that for the different folks that are involved and bring everybody together and make it a much clearer process for the students.
What do you see as the most important aspect of your role?
It would be hard to name one. I would say there would be two that would be equally important to me. One would be our response. I think [administration response] is hugely important for a student going through an assault, for the respondent also going through a claim, making sure that there’s a fair process in place.
And then also the training and education would be the other piece that’s fundamental to my role. That’s how we create change and make a culture shift and make this into an environment where it’s safe and respectful of one another.
Georgetown University Student Association and the administration reached an agreement in September to improve the campus climate towards sexual misconduct. What will your role be in helping to implement the agreement? What do you plan to do?
I see GUSA as a huge partner; they know the climate right now and can educate me on where the needs are. I think I’m there to help navigate their concerns that they bring up.
The more consistent language we have out there about resources and confidential counselors and Title IX the better. But just making sure that it’s consistent, I think sometimes there can be a problem where many different people are trying to put information out there that’s great, but we want to make sure that it’s all consistent language and consistent messaging so that people are clear, and it doesn’t become a more confusing process.
Your career experience so far has revolved around social work including addressing sexual assault. Why is it important for you to work to address these issues? Why did you go into this field and why are you still in it?
I think the honest answer is it’s been the most rewarding work that I’ve done. Working with somebody that’s gone through a sexual assault, you can really reach them at a time in their life when many other supports in their life aren’t as helpful; it’s not as comfortable to talk to your parent or friends or ministry, and so this is a time when you can really make a difference with somebody and you can … your response to somebody when they’re going through a trauma like this, can really aid in how the healing process works for them. … I also see it as that we have a responsibility to all of our students and so making it a fair process for everybody going through it. I see myself as an advocate: I’m not an advocate anymore for just survivors; I’m an advocate for all students.