In response to an account of sexual assault published in Amherst College’s student newspaper, former Cornell provost and current president of Amherst, Biddy Martin, issued a statement on Oct. 18 addressing the issues at hand. President Martin acknowledged that the college plays a crucial role in changing the campus climate, set forth a concrete list of steps to be taken and outlined clear initiatives to include students such as several open meetings, and one teach-in. This type of response to the student voice allows for productive action. We urge the Cornell administration to follow suit.
This semester, our administration has published a number of letters about sexual violence and bias, yet none provide actionable steps and concrete ways in which they will move forward. Meanwhile, many students have organized and offered clear and concrete proposals to the administration.The Assembly for Justice has been working for more than six months to have its demands approved by President Skorton and other administrators. While not all of the group’s demands are equally feasible, the call for sexual violence education for all University students is a necessary, immediately actionable project. A committee composed of students, professors and administrators could research curriculum from other Universities and companies and implement the program as soon as next semester.
Another worthwhile initiative is the development of a Sexual Assault Prevention Center, a proposal that was discussed at Monday’s Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group. This proposal would involve centralizing and augmenting resources for survivors. At the moment, the Women’s Resource Center, which is a place many come for knowledge and resources, has only one paid employee — a sign that the University needs to invest in personnel to assist with these issues. Additionally, the resources should be centralized to promote awareness, efficiency and community. Such centers exist at other universities and have served as places for students to report incidences and connect with counselors.
The University has issued several statements in response to the recent violent crimes on campus, and all have included vague language about campus dialogue and student contribution. Students have come forward and worked toward solutions. It is time for the University to reciprocate with an explicit response, either implementing these proposals or offering counter-suggestions. While we believe that the University’s intentions and priorities are to protect and ensure student safety, we urge the administration to communicate these efforts with a tangible plan toward progress.