Sexual assault needs to be taken seriously. As members of the Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Take Back the Night, the Sexual Assault Working Group, and the general Georgetown community, we know this. As a result, we are frustrated with and disturbed by Chris and Meredith’s sexual assault platform. Its lack of substance reveals just how uninformed the candidates are on important issues, despite their obvious desire to shape policy surrounding them. Their sexual assault platform demonstrates ignorance, and the vagueness of their ideas suggests a lack of effort or desire to even learn about the issues at all.
First, let’s talk about what is actually proposed in their “platform.” The call for more blue light systems and surveillance cameras around campus, their main response to sexual assault, is a cop-out. Frankly, focusing on the blue light system is an outdated method of addressing violence on campus, which the candidates would know if they had done their research. There is a general consensus among both students and administrators that blue lights are ineffective and that funding focused on campus safety could be better spent elsewhere (an anti-violence program assistant, perhaps? Another CAPS counselor? SAPE training for the #Dignity15 campaign?)
However, the single paragraph (one out of two total paragraphs) on blue lights and surveillance details the only initiatives the #Dignity15 campaign has promised to implement. Their platform states, “The infamous Blue Light Systems scatter nearly every college campus. However, when was the last time you used one? Did university police arrive there within 3 minutes (as the university admission tours always promise)?”
It almost seems as if, upon noting that sexual assault is a hot-button issue on the Hilltop, Chris and Meredith looked around for the first possible solution they could spot, which, unfortunately, happened to be a broken blue light. It is unfortunate a student with knowledge and experience in sexual assault prevention was not closer at hand.
It is clear, and disappointing, to us that Chris and Meredith have no idea what is actually involved in anti-violence programming and advocacy. They are clueless about what this campus needs or how to best address sexual assault. Student leaders on these issues were clearly not approached. And even if they were, Chris and Meredith did not listen.
Chris and Meredith’s website shows they have no idea who is involved in handling issues of sexual assault. Student Affairs adjudicates the cases and houses the undergraduate Title IX administrator. Health Education, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Center promote education, awareness and survivor support. Mention of any of these departments is glaringly absent from their platform. Their sexual assault proposals imply that as far as Chris and Meredith know, the Georgetown University Police Department is the only department that takes reports of sexual assault, which is an understanding as archaic as the blue light system they so wish to improve.
Second, let’s talk about what could be. Abbey and Will suggest that CAPS hire a new sexual assault counselor. Tim and Reno advocate for specialized counselors for LGBTQ students. Sara and Ryan will encourage Student Affairs to follow up with survivors who did not win their adjudication to make sure they are still being supported. Even the satirical Luther-Rohan campaign rightly calls for increased hours for CAPS and Health Education to increase student access to these important services. The #Dignity15 campaign is woefully unaware of what students need or what has proved successful in the past.
Third, let’s talk about what happens next. Chris and Meredith might read this op-ed, completely change their tune, and frantically try to identify student leaders to associate with their campaign. That’s not adequate. It’s not enough to have the right people in the room. Platforms can be changed; it’s true. New ideas and cabinet members can be introduced. But what good is a team that is more reactionary to criticism than proactive in the first place? Every other GUSA ticket has made a definitive effort to include specific policy changes and has identified ways the anti-violence movement can be supported by student government. Not only are Chris and Meredith running on an empty platform of buzzwords, but they haven’t shown they care enough to do more.
Chris and Meredith do not lead us to believe that they would be able to implement policy changes if elected. In addition, their lack of effort in creating a platform indicates that they would not expend any properly placed energy on this issue. If Chris and Meredith win, the campus will stop being a safe place for survivors.
The #Dignity15 ticket is missing coherence, comprehension and compassion. It’s missing dignity.
Haley Maness is a senior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Maddy Moore is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. They are members of the Sexual Assault Working Group, Sexual Assault Peer Educators and Take Back the Night.