Cal Poly and the University of Hawaii Petition for Better Policies

Petitions can be a great tool to show the strength (in numbers!) behind your campaign. During SAAM, I highlighted a couple of Change.org petitions that were focused on campus sexual assault policies. This week I was alerted to another, this time from the community at California Polytechnic, where three rapes have been reported just this May. Two of the rapes were reported in the same dorm, and one at a frat party.

The Cal Poly petition has a lot of great stuff in it (and we were so thrilled to see that they cited our Change Happens Manual as a resource).The writers are calling for ten main improvements to how the school currently prevents and responds to sexual violence, including:

  • Instituting anonymous reporting and creating an amnesty policy
  • A full-time, trained rape crisis advocate on staff at the Gender Equity Center to supervise prevention education and peer educators, and to play a key role in policy creation and oversight (I like how they note that a student should be part of the hiring committee!)
  • Consolidating all sexual assault-related policies and procedures into one, easily accessible place on the website (crazy how this is a problem at so many schools when it is so easily remedied!)
  • Mandated prevention education that will require students to “demonstrate knowledge about the definitions of sexual assault, relevant laws, and Cal Poly’s institutional policies.” (WHOA. AWESOME)
  • Training for all staff who are likely to receive reports of sexual violence
  • “An external audit of Cal Poly’s Sexual Assault Response and Reporting policy and practices to assess compliance with Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act”

It is EXTREMELY exciting for us to see that these calls for change have been thoroughly considered and tackle a variety of the components of a strong sexual assault policy.

Meanwhile, GirlFest Hawaii has their own petition at their website, which also asks for testimonials from University of Hawaii students (in case any of you are reading!) The petition demands that the University of Hawaii system live up to being the “rape free zone” it committed to being in 2005. Although that year marked a “declaration” and the formation of an alliance to fight sexual violence on campus, a lot of work still needs to be done and the folks at GirlFest are getting specific. Their comprehensive list (really, it’s worth reading in full) of goals include improvements to campus security and housing, education and awareness, and training for faculty and staff. I was especially impressed with their long-term goal of a Rape Free Zone Advisory Council:

This Council shall be comprised of no more than 40% UH faculty, staff, administration or other UH community member. The other 30% must be UH students and 30% of the Council shall be members of the general public with no professional relationships with the Board of Regents, UH Benefactors, Legislators, or other political entity or person that may create a conflict of interest. The RFZ Advisory Council shall be chosen by the RFZ Coalition and formally acknowledged by the University of Hawaii. At least 75% percent of this Coalition must be female…The Advisory Council will meet regularly (monthly or bi-monthly) to review crime, assault and any issues presented to the Council for review.

This is one of the most amazing accountability tools I have seen proposed on a college campus. It institutionalizes an inclusive and representative oversight committee dedicated to the issue, and includes community members which I think is fantastic. We’ve seen that most schools only devote a sentence or two to the issue of oversight (if they mention it at all), so this would seem to be unprecedented and I hope the organizers are able to make it happen.

What I love most about the U of H work though is the very concept of a “rape free zone.” There definition is:

A Rape-Free Zone (RFZ) is an area such as a campus, community, city, state or country which promote anti-sexism and anti-violence. Sexual violence is never tolerated and penalties are severe. RFZs also reflect gender equality in all levels of its government. Women serve in every level of executive administration and government.

A RFZ is one where rape, sexual assault and the subordination of women is a violence of the past. In our hearts and souls we love and respect one another so deeply that violence is unacceptable.

A RFZ is one where women’s rights are represented in the law and in the culture of our society from University policy to the criminal and civil laws of the State of Hawai‘i. We recognize the male- centered hidden norm in our public policy and we collectively reform and maintain a structural change to ensure the advancement of women’s rights and equality.

This “rape free zone” is free not only of actual violence, but of rape culture. It holds students (and everyone else on campus) to a standard that is higher than simply not perpetrating physical and sexual violence against one another, but actually respecting one another and acknowledging and addressing the attitudes and structural inequities that enable sexual violence. What a concept!

Originally posted at Change Happens

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