Sexual Respect: an emerging RU policy to improve administration response to sexual assault
By Jenn Tyborski
After a sexual assault case last year left students questioning their safety on campus, as well as how Roosevelt University administration would respond to future crimes, the university is developing a new policy for a positive change.
According to the university’s web page on discrimination, the university complies with Title IX. The page states, “[The university] does not discriminate on the basis of sex in any student program, activity, service or benefit. It guarantees students of both sexes equal access to educational and extracurricular programs and activities.”
Brigham Timpson, chief of staff to the president, is the coordinator for Title IX at the university. According to Timpson, the university has formed a committee of faculty, staff and students to move toward creating a new policy called Sexual Respect.
“Any act of sexual misconduct or sexual assault is a violation of the university’s Code of Conduct, Sexual Assault Policy, and Anti-Harassment Policy,” Timpson said. “It should be known that when sexual misconduct of any kind occurs, the Title IX outcome will focus on providing accommodations for the individual(s) affected by the offense, such as assistance with housing or academic needs and establishing safety measures to protect the individual and other affected community members.”
The committee has conducted a “deep-dive analysis of the university’s current policies, procedures and educational programming centered around Title IX and Sexual Respect,” according to Timpson.
One of the ways the administration is trying to comply with the policies is through training opportunities for orientation leaders.
During training for OLs this summer, students were given a one-hour training session called “RU Sex Savvy,” on sexual assault. According to Jaime Meyer, a junior who underwent the training, the university brought in outside sources, in addition to university staff, to assist with the training session.
“At the session, we were taught how to facilitate the sex session and like a layout of what they were going to be teaching,” Meyer said. “But we aren’t the ones doing the actual discussion.”
Where is this move towards further compliance with Title IX coming from?
After the way last year’s sexual assault cases were presented to the university community, there was a large outcry from students and faculty against the administration. Roosevelt alumna Jessica Thiesen, was just one of many student activists who fought for change in the administration’s response to sexual assault.
Along with students Anna Rangos and Gianna Chacon, Thiesen worked on a grassroots awareness campaign to call attention to the situation.
“The motive behind [the campaign] was to cause a commotion in order to raise awareness of how sexual assault operates,” Thiesen said. “We like to think of rape and sexual assault as individual incidents. It is comfortable to think of what happened in that stairwell last year as a random act of [a] stranger. The motive of the campaign we launched was to disrupt this narrative and call attention to the fact that rape happens because the culture, and the culture of Roosevelt included, lets it happen.”
Last year, Chacon worked with Coalition Of a Responsible Education and Feminists United. Together with these groups, she helped towards creating sexual assault awareness on campus.
“I think it was really great to see that this started off as a grassroots campaign, and I think it’s really positive to see members in the administration get really involved after all the uprising,” she said.
This year, Chacon is president of RISE, another student activist group on campus. Because of these other commitments, Chacon was not able to participate in the committee to bring about change to the administration’s treatment of sexual assault.
However, Chacon noted that Ellen O’Brien, director the of Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and Bridget Collier, assistant provost of student affairs, are two main leaders of the committee.
“Bridget Collier is working on the equational aspect of the sexual respect policy committee, and Ellen O’Brien was the mastermind of the overall policy,” Chacon said. “They have been the driving force of the committee.”