May 6, 2014

Cornell Officials Praise White House Sexual Assault Report

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While Cornell administrators have praised the recently-issued national report “Not Alone” — a compilation of sexual assault prevention guidelines — some student leaders say they believe the steps made by the White House are only a “first step” in addressing this issue.

In response to “a series of highly publicized rapes” on college campuses across the country, a White House task force drafted “Not Alone” in order to guide colleges in approving problem identification, sexual assault prevention, response to sexual assaults and the federal government’s enforcement and transparency, The New York Times reported.

The guidelines outlined in the report urge colleges to conduct anonymous surveys regarding incidences of sexual assault, adopt anti-assault policies that have been found to be successful at other colleges and ensure that reports of sexual assault remain confidential, according to The Times.

According to a University statement, Cornell administrators have made active efforts to implement the task force’s new broader guidelines — one being the ‘single investigator’ model for sexual misconduct — and have contributed to the national cause by working with government officials.“I’m excited that this will start the conversation in many schools about how cases of sexual violence should be addressed.” — Yamini Bhandari ’17

“Several of the White House task force’s recommendations, most notably its call for an innovative ‘single investigator’ model for sexual misconduct complaints are already in action here at Cornell, and our leadership team is investigating actively how Cornell can implement the broadest possible range of these new guidelines,” the statement said.

Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president for Student and Academic Services, says she “appreciates” and “applauds” the University’s efforts toward maintaining a collective stance against sexual violence.

“While our campus organizations, policies and practices have evolved over three decades, we have remained committed to a climate and culture that include zero tolerance of such violence,” she said. “I appreciate greatly the work of the faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners who are serving on Cornell’s Council on Sexual Violence Prevention to inform, guide and strengthen the effectiveness and the reach of our programs of prevention, intervention and response.”

Yamini Bhandari ’17, current freshman representative and incoming women’s issues liaison-at-large for the Student Assembly, said that while she believes the report shows that the government understands sexual assault as an issue, it is only a “starting point.”

“At the very least, I’m excited that this will start the conversation in many schools about how cases of sexual violence should be addressed, and I hope to see this program succeed and lead to more collaboration between universities across the country,” she said. “It’s a great place to start, but it is just the beginning of a larger movement that needs to happen.”

Syed Ali Khan ’15, transfer representative for S.A., said he also believes the guidelines are only a “first step” to what the government needs to do in the future.

“This comes as a reactionary measure to a nationally highlighted string of sexual assaults and I only wish that there was more work done prior at the national level,” he said.

Juliana Batista ’16, women’s issues liaison for the S.A., said she believes that although Cornell is very open in [conversing] about sexual assault, more effort needs to be made to include some groups, namely males and minority women.

“Cornell still has strifes to go. I think that we still struggle with integrating the voices of males and minority women in this conversation,” she said. “However, I think Cornell is at the forefront in addressing sexual violence.”