AAU sexual assault student survey results released

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Last year, under the guidance of the Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF), Brown agreed to participate in a sexual assault student survey organized by the Association of American Universities (AAU). Across the country, 27 Universities participated in this survey. Today, the results of the AAU survey were released.  President Christina Paxson P’19 sent out a campus-wide email this morning to announce the release of both the general and Brown specific survey results. In her email, Paxson writes that these results will be used to assess the current climate of sexual assault at Brown and create data-driven initiatives that seek to make Brown a “safe and inclusive campus.”

The survey’s results show high rates of assault among survey participants. The survey found that 25% of Brown undergraduate women and 6.8% of undergraduate men who participated in the survey experienced “either unwanted sexual touching or attempted or completed penetration due to physical force or incapacitation.” Among senior participants, these numbers jump to 33% of Brown women and 8% of Brown men.

In Paxson’s email, she notes that rates of sexual assault reported by those who identify as TGQN (trans, genderqueer, questioning, or nonconforming) “were similar to those for undergraduate women.”

Perhaps most noteworthy is that 60.5% of students who had reported sexual assault by force on their survey, did not approach the University about the incident. Further, “an estimated 70.5% of those who did not report they had been victimized thought the incident was not serious enough to report, and 47.9% thought that a report would not be taken seriously.”

Paxson’s email mentions two opportunities to continue these important discussions:

  • This Wednesday, September 23rd, UCS will be holding an Open Forum on Title IX at Brown from  7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Metcalf Auditorium.
  • The survey results will be presented at the next Brown University Community Council (BUCC) meeting on Tuesday, September 29, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Kasper Multipurpose Room in Faunce.

Paxson closes her email by encouraging all students to be actively aware of the high prevalence of sexual assault on our campus and to be committed to “cultivat[ing] a culture at Brown in which sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence and stalking are not tolerated.”

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A recap of the State of Brown address

Last night, the third annual State of Brown address was co-hosted by UCS and President Christina Paxson, P’19. The event began with UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 delivering a summary of projects undertaken by UCS this year. Paxson followed with a speech on her own major concerns for the university, noting that she could not give “a comprehensive list of everything that happened this year — it’s a lot, you know that — and the issues we’ve been dealing with aren’t just at Brown, they’re everywhere.” Much of the Q&A section of the event focused on the topics that have been of great concern to the student body and administration this year, including mental health resources, changing the university’s sexual assault and harassment policies, and diversity issues. 

What does UCS do?

Srinivasan began by noting that many students might wonder the above from time to time and she appreciated having State of Brown to clarify their role.

A major goal for UCS this year was to increase support for student advocacy, allowing student activists to either voice concerns to the administration through UCS or push for conversations where they could express themselves directly. To this end, they worked with the Student Labor Alliance regarding the protests for rights of university mailroom workers earlier this year, and they worked with students from the Imagine Rape 0 protests on communicating with the administration.

This year UCS has launched several important online initiatives; wtf*brown (beloved here at Blog) allows students to post and vote on suggestions for the university, and more recently their Textbook Exchange has created an online platform to buy and sell used textbooks, tagged by the class they are for.

UCS has also worked with ResLife to abolish the suite fee for all students; while this year the fee was decreased, they hope to see it gone in the coming years.

The future of Brown academics

President Paxson noted that State of Brown allowed her to answer the question “Where is Brown going?” for the student body, half of which had not matriculated when her Strategic Plan was released two years ago. To that end, she started with a briefing on some of the points of progress on said plan. Her desire is to move Brown’s open curriculum into the 21st century, using technology to embrace the unique cross-departmental education initiatives that Brown offers. An Engaged Scholars Program piloted this year in which students to engage with five departments, and integrate off-campus work into their education. Paxson also expressed desire to “blast away” large lecture classes, envisioning a Brown which uses technology to ensure that the university only offers small, intimate courses.

Diversity in Brown faculty

Paxson stated that the lack of diversity in our faculty posed a major problem for the university. Currently, only about 8.5% of Brown faculty is of unrepresented minorities, which Paxson acknowledged “just doesn’t reflect our student population.” Paxson stated she wanted to double this number in the next ten years; although 16% still sounds low, “it’s going to take a lot of work to do it.” The university has also started a diversity post-doc program, and will be making an effort to focus more on doctoral education in the next few years.

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The Hunting Ground screens at Brown

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“My rape was bad, but the way I was treated in the process was worse.”

The Hunting Ground is a documentary that explores the world of sexual assault on college campuses, and the processes through which those cases are handled. BlogDH went to IFF’s screening with the intention of gathering student reactions at the end of the film. The night did not go as expected. What started as a montage of adorable college acceptance videos, quickly escalated to a platform for the interwoven narratives of college sexual assault victims across the nation. The overarching theme was to follow the first two women in this movement to file a Title IX case against their school, UNC Chapel Hill. The personal story arcs for so many of the victims made the story hit close to home, with one student who exited the theater saying “that could be me.”

As the documentary layered the various complexities that victims face on college campuses, at times going against inert administrations, athletic infrastructures, and the fraternity system, one would stop to catch a breath and think, “this must be the end of the movie,” only to be hit with another punch to gut. When the film let out, very few attendees wanted to speak with us. Some shook their heads, declined to comment, and one person said, “I have no words.” We gathered what afterthoughts we could, but we also would like to acknowledge that the film was very intense, and many people were unable to talk about it immediately afterwards. Another student said, “I don’t know if I have anything positive on the subject,” illustrating the moroseness that hung over the audience, despite occasional messages of hope.

In many of the featured cases, students filing sexual assault charges were downright ignored. When you did see change, it was often followed by a lack of institutional memory. Many have clamored for college administrations to inform their student body of potentially dangerous areas on campus in regards to sexual assault. Wesleyan did that just a few years ago, by sending out an email warning incoming freshman to stay away from a certain fraternity house, because they could not secure it as a safe environment. It was met with outrage from alumni, parents, and some students. The next year, they did not send out the email, and by Halloween a student was raped in the fraternity house. Despite the anticipated backlash, another student leaving Granoff still insisted that “Brown-specific sexual assault data should be reported to students, because the issue goes well beyond protecting image (of the University).” Continue Reading


What we learned at yesterday’s sexual assault lectures

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Last Friday, November 14, President Paxson sent out an email to the Brown community that addressed a number of concerns regarding university sexual assault policy and planning for the future. In particular, she called attention to the Janus Forum event that was to take place the following week, “Valenti/McElroy: How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” Paxson wrote:

“Some people–including writer Wendy McElroy, who will speak with Jessica Valenti at a Janus Forum event next week–have argued that sexual assault is the work of small numbers of predatory individuals whose behaviors are impervious to the culture and values of their communities. I disagree. Although evidence suggests that a relatively small number of individuals perpetrate sexual assault, extensive research shows that culture and values do matter. Societies that have strong norms against sexual assault have fewer assaults.”

Further, Paxson informed the community of an alternative event to “provide… more research and facts about these important issues.” This lecture, “The Research on Rape Culture,” given by Brown University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Lindsay Orchowski, Ph.D., would occur concurrently with the Janus Forum event, but in a different location. By initiating this alternative to the Janus Forum, Paxson made a bold statement to the student body, faculty, and the Brown community: she offered us the option to educate ourselves through a fact-based presentation or to attend a discourse in which two contending speakers posed significantly different solutions to handling sexual assault on college campuses. The events differed in purpose, in lesson, and in nature.

Though both events were videotaped, it was intentionally impossible for any person to attend both. So if you went to one and not the other, or if you missed them altogether, we’ve got you covered. BlogDH sent one writer to the Janus Forum and another to “The Research on Rape Culture.” Here’s what we heard:

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What to do this week: November 3 – 9

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Monday, November 3:

Event: Midterm Madness with the Dems
Time: 5:00 – 8:00p.m.
Location: Wilson 102

Help the Brown Democrats conduct a phone bank one last time as we approach the November 4th elections.

Tuesday, November 4:

Event: Brown/RISD Stand Up Comics Present: Choose Your Starter
Time: 8:00 \p.m.
Location: The Underground

Five funny students will provide you with jokes and general levity tomorrow night for free. Don’t miss it!

Wednesday, November 5:

Event: Interracial Dating Panel
Time: 7:00 – 8.30 \p.m.
Location: Salomon 001

Who do you want, hook up with, date, and how does race and play into that? Six Brown students will share their opinions and take questions from the audience.

Event: Systems for Reporting Sexual Assault at Brown
Time: 7:30 – 9:30p.m.
Location: Metcalf Auditorium

The first hour of this event will be a teach-in with Brown administrators on how sexual assault cases are currently handled. The next hour will be an open forum with the Sexual Assault Task Force, allowing students the opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback and air grievances. All Brown community members are welcome to the teach-in, though the open forum is specifically for undergraduates.

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Date rape drugs used on campus

Last night, Dean Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services, wrote in an email to the student body that two students had reported being given drinks spiked with date rape drugs at a party at a fraternity in Sears House, on Friday, October 17. One student has also reported being sexual assaulted later that night. Klawunn asks that, “if you have any information about either the suspected use of a date rape drug or the sexual assault, please contact Sergeant John Carvalho at the Department of Public Safety, 401-863-3322 as the incidents are under active investigation.”

Klawunn reminded the student body that according the university’s Code of Conduct, any student found guilty of distributing a date rape drug will be “separated from the University.”

Brown is now taking steps to ensure the safety of the student body, including suspending the organization that hosted the event and reviewing the university alcohol service policies. DPS sent out a notice earlier this week on the dangers of spiked drinks and how to stay safe at party, which can be found here. Please, remember to think about what you are drinking and where it came from; make your own drinks, don’t leave your cup unattended, and watch out for your friends.

The DPS emergency number is (401) 863-4111, and there is also a Special Victims Unit to help victims sexual assault, reachable at (401) 863-3322. The University Sexual Assault Response Line can be contacted at (401) 863-6000, at any time of day or night.