October 2, 2015

At Roundtable, Students Point to Problems in Campus Sex Culture

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ollowing last week’s release of the results of a comprehensive sexual assault climate survey, Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life, attended a roundtable Thursday to discuss campus views on sexual assault.

The roundtable covered the need to improve off-campus safety, awareness of sexual assault and bystander intervention.

“I’ve only been here a short while at Cornell, and I’m trying to learn and understand the community as best I can,” Lombardi said. “I need to do that in order to try to help affect change for those issues that are most important to students on this campus.”

The roundtable was facilitated by the S.A. in response to the results of the Association of American Universities “campus climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct,” which were released Sept. 21. Twenty-seven universities across the country, including Cornell, participated in the survey.

The survey reported that 79 percent of students who witnessed a drunken person heading towards a sexual encounter said they did not intervene and that many members of the LGBT community do not feel that university administration would respond or take their claims of sexual assault seriously. It also found that 22.6 percent of Cornell women and six percent of Cornell men have had non-consensual sexual experiences since arriving on campus.

One of the first major themes that students brought up during the roundtable was a belief that a change in the campus culture is needed in order to prevent sexual violence. Many students who commented said that change must come from within the student culture rather than from the University administration.

“Funnelling it through Gannett does not solve everything,” Jevan Hutson ’16 said. “[Students must] recognize that engaging communities on the ground is deeply important in changing culture.”

Other students pointed out that campus groups raising awareness of sexual assault often do not coordinate with each other. Sarah Palmer ’17, president of The F-Word, a feminist group on campus, said that with so many groups on campus working on so many different issues, it is hard for organizations to keep track of one another.

“I know what our group is doing but I know very little about the initiative that everyone else is taking,” she said. “I do think there’s a lot of positive things going on and a lot of issues being addressed but until we kind of sit together and talk about what we’re doing, we’re not really going to know about it or what we can do to help each other.”