By: Nicole Saxton
As much as the university tries to prevent it, sexual assault happens, but the question is: What are students supposed to do?
If you go to the Gardner-Webb website, there isn’t any information related specifically to sexual assault. This might be worrisome as it appears there isn’t any information on what to do. Truth is, there is information, but it isn’t easy to find.
Vice President and Dean of Student Development, Dr. Delores Hunt said, “Do I suspect students know about the policy? No.” Proving that she too knows the information isn’t readily available for students.
Hunt said, “The info is out there, you just have to go look for it.” She pinpoints how all the information and emergency contact numbers anyone needs is in the Student Handbook.
On page 93, in the Student Handbook, it states “(b) Speak to someone in the appropriate administrative structure (i.e. the complainant’s supervisor or department chair, the Director of Human Resources, any Vice President of Gardner-Webb University, the Director of the Counseling Center, the chair of the faculty, or a member of the Mediation Committee).”
So if a student has been sexually assaulted, they should call 911, call campus police, contact a Vice President; student athletes should also contact Chuck Burch, and reach out to the counseling center.
Director of the counseling center, Cindy Wallace, feels logically the counseling center is one of the places she’d expect students to go to when something happens, saying “Students know we are here,” and “we try to put ourselves out there.”
Once university police is called, they contact Wallace immediately, staying in the loop. Wallace notes that counseling services is more than just sitting and talking with the victim. She literally goes to the victim, whether they be in the dorms or in the hospital.
The counseling center is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and for after-hours emergencies, an on-call counselor can be reached by calling university police at (704) 406-4444.
In relation to the Student Handbook, Wallace said, “Most people don’t read it, unless they have to.”
It shouldn’t come to any surprise that most college students can’t find their student handbook, if they even have one; but the student handbook shouldn’t be the only place where this information can be found.
Many students may wonder: what is the plan to put out information reachable to students of sexual assault?
January 22, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Presidential Memorandum (document) establishing the White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assault. The Task Force is Co-Chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The “NOT ALONE – The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” report was prepared by the White House Task Force, and states:
“Today, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is releasing a 52-point guidance document that answers many frequently asked questions about a student’s rights, and a school’s obligations, under Title IX. Among many other topics, the new guidance clarifies that Title IX protects all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, immigration status, or whether they have a disability. It also makes clear that students who report sexual violence have a right to expect their school to take steps to protect and support them, including while a school investigation is pending. The guidance also clarifies that recent amendments to the Clery Act do not alter a school’s responsibility under Title IX to respond to and prevent sexual violence.”
“The Departments of Education and Justice, which both enforce Title IX, have entered into an agreement to better coordinate their efforts – as have the two offices within the Department of Education charged with enforcing Title IX and the Clery Act.”
The report lays out the plan in steps, such as identifying the problem, preventing sexual assault, responding effectively, and improving the federal government’s enforcement efforts.
With the new rules and regulations finalized in Title IX and the Clery Act, the university is setting everything in motion by hosting an informational meeting open to everyone, along with hanging flyers, and posting more on the website. Staff, such as RA’s, will get additional training.
Hunt said, “It’s not just us, everyone has to up their game on this.”
Gathering more information, to create a higher level of safety, Wallace said, “I’m excited about the new awareness that will be on campus.”
It’s the universities’ job to protect the students and faculty, and with the new rules and regulations, there should be an increase of information and a reliable safety net soon to come.
Hunt is located on the second floor of the Student Tucker Center, and Wallace can be found on the third floor of Tucker.