March 20, 2014

EDITORIAL: A Call for More Student Input Surrounding Sexual Health

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On Tuesday, The Sun reported that reported cases of sexual assault have risen to a 23-year high at Cornell. We applaud the University’s efforts to create an environment where people feel comfortable reporting sexual assault. However the problem still persists, as enumerated by the statistic from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. While we laud Cornell for its dedication to facilitating conversation and educating students about sexual assault, we believe the University could be doing more to facilitate peer-to-peer conversation around this topic.

Last fall, President David Skorton created the University’s Council on Sexual Violence and Prevention to address sexual assault at Cornell. The Council has 48 members on the roster, five of which are students. We commend the administration for taking positive steps to fight this problem. Cornell has a handful of resources and programs for students including Wingman 101, the Every1 Campaign and the Women’s Resource Center. However, with an issue that affects not only our campus but all campuses across the country, we question why initiatives like this Council and other programs are not made up of more students.

In an effort to curb sexual assault on their campus, Princeton has created a Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising Resources & Education program that is structured differently than the one at Cornell. Princeton’s program provides services to students 24 hours a day. Princeton has also enacted a peer program where students plan activities, programs and events to raise awareness on campus about sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking. Additionally, these Princeton students act as liaisons between the student body and the SHARE director to convey concerns, needs or issues pertaining to these issues. We call on Cornell to implement a student-to-student program like our Ivy League counterpart. We believe that through a similar SHARE program and other student-based initiatives, the University could provide more resources and still have sexual assault would at the forefront of campus issues.

We acknowledge that sexual assault is not a Cornell-specific problem. And while we think Cornell is dedicated to finding a solution and providing support for those who are affected, we believe there are more opportunities for students to be part of the conversation.