AS Students Against Sexual Assault Hosts Winter Town Hall

Photo Courtesy of SASA UCSB

Troy Sambajon

National Beat Reporter

On Feb. 24, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Associated Students (AS) Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) held their quarterly town hall, inviting all students and community members to engage with a public panel about student safety, security, administrative and police accountability, and the expansion of resources available at UCSB.

The panel was comprised of school administrators and addressed discussion topics and recommendations received during their previous SASA town hall in the fall quarter. 

Since then, the Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education Center’s (CARE) services became accessible both remotely and in-person, in both Spanish and English. 

CARE will also be conducting a bystander intervention attitudes survey this April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month to better understand the public’s perceptions of how community members should intervene when they see something wrong. This will be followed by a violence intervention program to spread awareness for the school community. 

Responding to one inquiry made during the fall, the Office of Title IX and Sexual Assault Harassment Policy Compliance worked to improve its anonymous tip line. Before, anonymous harassment reports were considered “dead-ends,” as little contact information made it difficult for officers to follow-up for more detailed information. Now, students can fill out a harassment report and withhold their first and last name, maintaining anonymity while still staying in contact for potential follow-ups. 

In response to another inquiry made during fall quarter, SASA worked with University of California Police Department (UCPD) to improve the Timely Warning System, which messages all UCSB email accounts about sensitive community crimes. 

Last quarter, SASA conducted a survey on Timely Warnings to gauge public awareness and feedback. Out of 442 participants, 181 students reported that they were negatively affected by the timely warning emails. In response to SASA’s findings, this warning system worked to improve how different trigger warnings for sensitive content are given, placed at both the beginning of an email and preceding the particular description of the incident.

According to SASA’s survey, 39 respondents felt that more detailed information — the date, time, and location — was “helpful to their safety.” During February’s town hall, many community members also wanted more information about specific locations of incidents as well. 

Many students shared their thoughts and concerns for more proactive measures toward safety and transparency. One student brought the lack of lighting both on campus and in Isla Vista (I.V.) to attention. For those walking alone in the dark, especially women, many felt anxiety and fear for their safety. 

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Margaret Klawunn, said she would follow up with UCPD’s chief on their annual lighting survey and encouraged more feedback if there are particular locations needing to be addressed. 

Another anonymous community member questioned the transparency and authority among those working at the university, particularly within the chemistry department. They cited how, in 2018, a UCSB chemistry researcher was arrested for performing lewd and lascivious acts against a 14-year-old child, according to police. After they asked around for further information, the anonymous inquirer was unable to learn more about the situation and the department procedures since this incident. 

“We all work late hours in associated departments and have a right to know our safety where we work,” stated the community member. 

Ariana Alvarez, the director of the Office of Title IX, responded that departments are limited in what details of the situation and of the response they are allowed to share. However, university administrators recognize how this lack of communication could make it difficult to feel safe in the department and on-campus. Acts of transparency between the departments and community are, thus, invaluable. 

Alvarez said this issue is something to follow up with the chemistry department. She believed it would be helpful to know more about the situation and encouraged the community member to reach out to her privately. 

After the arrest of Justin Asinobi for invasion of privacy, many I.V. residents felt paranoid and upset. The town halls offered the platform for community members to voice their concerns, list recommendations to alleviate these concerns, and most importantly, feel heard by school administrators who operate behind the scenes. Events like these and the work which comes out from them have the potential to create a greater sense of community — by having real conversations about safety, accountability, and transparency.

For more information on future events and how to get involved with AS SASA, follow their Instagram @sasa.ucsb or visit their website.