A few weeks ago, a student filed a lawsuit against Northeastern University and five administrators and staff members for mishandling her sexual assault case. Since then, Northeastern has remained silent about the case and this issue on campus. The Sexual Assault Response Coalition (SARC) has several demands for Northeastern to begin providing the support survivors need and deserve.
Northeastern must expand confidential, on-campus resources for survivors. University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) only employs one counselor who is trained to respond to trauma and sexual assault. Furthermore, UHCS counseling wait times are upwards of three or four weeks, and counseling is offered on a short-term basis only. Northeastern’s refusal to expand counseling resources is a message to students that the university does not affirm the fact that mental health, especially PTSD, deeply affects students’ well-being and ability to succeed. We demand accessible mental health resources on campus for survivors.
Northeastern must make the Violence Support, Intervention and Outreach Network (ViSION) Resource Center a confidential space in order to ensure the safety and security of survivors and allies who utilize the space. Currently, the VISION Resource Center is staffed by “Responsible Employees,” meaning any disclosure of sexual violence to a staff member is reported to the Office of Gender Equity and Compliance (OGEC) and Northeastern University Police Department and an investigation will follow. Despite well-intentioned and supportive ViSION staff, this space is not functioning in the way survivors need it to. Northeastern opened the ViSION Resource Center as an artificial and ineffective solution to appease and quiet student activists. We demand that the ViSION Resource Center become a confidential resource and a safe and supportive community that survivors so often lack on this campus. We demand the creation of a space that truly caters to the needs of survivors.
Northeastern must design a new adjudication process to handle sexual assault cases. Northeastern has a history of mishandling sexual assault cases, in part because under-trained undergraduate and graduate students wield the power to decide findings and sanctions for sexual assault cases. SARC is working with OGEC and the Student Government Association to create a proposal for an alternative adjudication process for Title IX offenses. We demand these changes be enacted for the 2017-2018 school year.
Northeastern must be honest about the realities of sexual assault on campus. Northeastern has conducted a campus climate survey about the prevalence of and attitudes about sexual assault for the past two years. Only after pressure from SARC did Northeastern release the results of the survey both years. However, the data collected and presented in the surveys has been flawed, confusing and incomplete. Many of the questions are leading and do not give accurate insight into the true climate of sexual violence our campus. Northeastern refuses to give access to the raw data of this survey, which would allow SARC to work with university officials on targeted prevention and intervention strategies to support groups on campus most affected by sexual violence. We demand that in the next campus climate survey, the raw data is released along with the rest of the results.
These are not solutions, but rather a few changes that will bring the university closer to being a supportive and inclusive place for all students on campus. Northeastern has lost the trust of many sexual assault survivors and allies due to its inaction and refusal to take steps to advocate for survivors. It will take time, thought and community input to build that trust again and make campus a place where all students can thrive.
The Sexual Assault Response Coalition meets Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in the ViSION Resource Center at 106 St. Stephen St. Visit Facebook for other news and events.
File photo by news staff.