Students Demand Reform of Sexual Assault Policies

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The Bottom Line Staff Report

Students and administrators joined together at last Thursday’s Sexual Assault Town Hall to express their discontent that UCSB administration has yet to complete a list of demands to prevent sexual assault and increase survivor resources.

Last May, the university agreed to a list of 12 demands that would reform sexual assault policies both on campus and across the UC system. The agreement was met after a sit-in led by former student Ro’Shawndra Earvin.  

The town hall, hosted by the Student Activist Network, was a response to the eleventh demand, calling on the UC President to hold a “sexual assault and violence” town hall to the public at every UC campus.

Representing UC President Janet Napolitano was Robin Holmes Sullivan, Vice President of Student Affairs for the UC Office of the President.  

Although Chancellor Henry Yang was not in attendance because he was out of town advocating for more University funds, Margaret Klawunn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, spoke on his behalf. She expressed his “regret for not being [at the town hall meeting],” and that he had made a “personal commitment to raise funds for the Survivor Fund,” UCSB’s fund that financially supports sexual violence survivors.

The panel of speakers included fourth year religious studies major Ro’Shawndra Earvin and Jennifer Selvidge, a Ph.D student in engineering and campus liaison for the newly formed UC Title IX Student Advisory Board.

Selvidge expressed her concerns over the original 2015 demands that still have not been met.

Among these, she called attention to the demand for a Campus Advocacy, Resource, and Education (C.A.R.E.) advocate in the Santa Catalina Residence Hall. This service would provide easier access for those living in the dorms and nearby University apartments.

Another incomplete demand, according to Selvidge, is the increase of female staff in the IV Foot Patrol and further sexual assault training for officers.

“Presence of women in a space does not decrease bad behavior,” Selvidge said, acknowledging the importance of improving IVFP’s handling of sexual assault cases through better training.

Earvin also expressed dissatisfaction with the overall handling of sexual assault and harassment reports by IVFP and UCPD.

Catcalling by IVFP was an issue brought up during the night by a concerned victim.

Earvin reiterated that her agenda is “demand completion” for all 12 demands in the agreement.

In response to student’s ongoing frustration with sexual assault in the university, Senators Kristen Armellini and Grecia Martinez authored a resolution in support of Sprigeo, a third-party mobile application that allows users to report sexual assault directly from their phone. However, Associated Student Senate voted 14-8-0 to send the resolution to external affairs at last Wednesday’s senate meeting.

“The application itself is not doing anything that the demands haven’t done,” said Senator Alexandra Gessesse said on Wednesday.

Gessesse expressed her frustration that in terms of addressing sexual assault, “no one in this room has been to the [previous] town hall meeting … no one in student leadership have spearheaded this project.”

Gessesse pointed out that the original resolution mentioned the work of Alejandra Melgoza, Lexi Weyrick, and Melissa Vasquez toward sexual assault prevention in 2015, and Ro’Shawndra Earvin in 2017, without first speaking to any of the individuals.

“When I found out my name was on that resolution and I had not been notified, I have to say I was really disappointed,” Melgoza told A.S. Senate during Wednesday’s public forum. “Using my name without my consent and not once being contacted, you all are perpetuating the same acts of violence that you all are trying to prevent.”

“In no way was this resolution supposed to cause this kind of anxiety and uproar,” Armellini apologized on Wednesday.

“How dare you think you can appropriate my name and struggles for an app in disguise of trying to help the community. But [as] disrespect[ful] as this is, [its] not …surprising. However, my struggle and fight will be the end of this kind of silencing and disrespect of Black women and their stories,” said Gessesse, speaking on behalf of Earvin.

“I did not give any kind of consent to Associated Students to use my name and my story in any way, shape, or form,” she continued. “A.S. Senate UCSB will have the African National Women’s Association, along with the Uhuru movement, to respond to because it’s not about me anymore; it’s about my people and our struggle.”

Alondra Sierra and Lauren Marnel Shores contributed to this report.