The Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force — a group of students, administrators, faculty and staff assembled to determine policy recommendations for the university following the release of the results of the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey in June — held its first weekly meeting of the academic year earlier this month.
The survey — released to students in January last year — found that 31 percent of female undergraduates have experienced non-consensual sexual contact, around eight percent higher than the average of more than two dozen peer institutions.
The task force’s first meeting, held on Sept. 2, involved all student and administrator members and focused primarily on setting up logistics and honing in on the goals and direction of each subcommittee. The group plans to meet once a week.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny serve as the project’s administrative co-chairs, while Georgetown University Student Association Deputy Chief of Staff Olivia Hinerfeld (SFS ’17) is the student chair.
To ensure a holistic process, the project leaders have divided the task force into five subcommittees — Policies, Resources and Reporting; Education and Bystander Intervention; Alcohol and Drugs; Vulnerable Populations; and Metrics, Evaluation and Assessment – each led by both a student and administrative chair.
According to Hinerfeld, a key focus of the task force is improving bystander education, after the climate survey found that three in four students do not feel that they have the tools to intervene in questionable situations.
“Something we want to be able to measure and see a difference in the next time we do the climate survey is we would love to see the number go way up in how many students feel confident to intervene because that’s something we have the power to change,” Hinerfeld said.
Beyond an emphasis on improving bystander intervention, the task force’s Vulnerable Populations subcommittee seeks to conduct in-depth research on vulnerable demographics, including the LGBTQ community and individuals with disabilities, and then apply its findings to sexual assault and misconduct prevention, according to Daisy Hoang (COL ’19), the subcommittee’s co-chair.
“Our main goal is to kind of dive into the reasons behind that there are high numbers of reports within these communities, especially within LGBTQ and within disability populations,” Hoang said. “We want to focus on comparing with peer institutions, national levels and then look at current ways Georgetown is trying to focus on these groups and try to see where we can help.”
Hinerfeld said the shared student and administrative leadership is valuable in giving students and faculty an equal say in the task force’s dialogue and future actions.
“It’s one of the first times I’ve seen on campus a really meaningful partnership between students and the university staff and administrators, because I think early on in my Georgetown career there weren’t as many forums where a student and an administrator shared a title,” Hinerfeld said. “But the fact that the steering committee is composed of subcommittees that are chaired by an administrator and chaired by a student — I think we’re seeing really creative and informed partnerships being put into place.”
Hinerfield said that she and the administrative co-chairs not only looked at natural partners including Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Take Back the Night, Health Education Services, GUSA and Counseling & Mental Health when selecting students for the task force, but also endeavored to find a wide range of student and faculty voices.
“It was also really important to us that we are bringing students into the conversation that haven’t been as involved before,” Hinerfeld said. “And so for that reason I think that the task force is a fantastic blend of students that are really well-versed in these topics and have been involved in activism for a long time and students that are new to the conversation, but that come with a really unique perspective that allows them to look at the data in a different way.”
GUSA Sexual Assault and Safety Chair Maddy Moore (SFS ’17) said the task force has high potential to enact change on campus.
“It’s definitely a great step forward because it’s the largest body that we’ve seen meeting around this issue and having a very clear timeline to meet those asks and demands that students have been wanting for a long time,” Moore said.