USG wants to combat sexual assault with a task force that will bring together student organizations, administrators and, possibly, public officials in New York City.
The idea for the group came from Nicholas Sawicki, FCRH ‘16, vice president of United Student Government at Fordham College Rose Hill.
“We want to make sure that [sexual assault] isn’t happening at Fordham,” Sawicki said. “And for the cases that are occurring, we want to provide better protection for our students, make sure that the policies laid down by Dean [Christopher] Rodgers are well understood, and we want to hopefully change the culture that leads to this issue occurring.”
USG senators tried to establish a sexual assault liaison between the student government and school administrators at the end of last year, but after going through USG’s constitution, Sawicki decided a task force would be the best way to approach the issue.
He said another big reason for starting the task force was a report published by the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education.
It revealed that Fordham’s Office of Safety and Security filed 23 claims of on-campus sexual assault between 2010 and 2012. The number was higher than any other Jesuit institution, and it raised concerns among many students and USG members.
While some student voiced their frustration at the study published in The Ram back in February, Sawicki said the task force isn’t meant as a way to attack the administration, but as a way to work closely with school officials to reduce and better handle sexual misconduct in the Fordham community.
He went on to praise the administration’s work on the Fordham University Campus Assault and Relationship Education policy laid out online and in a pamphlet.
“The administration has done wonderful work especially with CARE,” he said. “The CARE policy covers a lot of important issues and one of our main goals is to help implement the policy.”
The online CARE page shows students what their options are if they have suffered from sexual misconduct, tells students how to file a report with school officials and strongly encourages anyone who has been sexual assaulted to contact the appropriate administrators.
The policy also answers several questions that someone who wants to report sexual misconduct might have, including how the judicial process goes after a formal report has been filed.
CARE even gives DO’s and DON’Ts for bystanders who see sexual misconduct happening in the Fordham community.
“The administration has done wonderful work, especially with CARE, and it outlines wonderfully what should and can be done in terms of victims and with those accused,” Sawicki said. “We want students to know about it and that it’s readily accessible.”
The Vice President said he is working with his colleagues this week to come up with a list of USG and other club members that will be on the Sexual Misconduct Task Force.
Sawicki said the group wants to have representation from the on-campus organization Women’s Empowerment, Peer Educators, Fordham University Emergency Medical Services (FUEMS) and other clubs that want to actively get involved in the issue.
After the list of student members are added to the task force, Sawicki explained that the group will reach out to school administrators to be part of the initiative.
“Once we get the members of the task force formalized, then we will set our goals and get the appropriate administrators involved,” he said.
Sawicki has one major goal in mind for the task force this school year: a conference in the spring which brings together students, administrators and public officials.
His list for potential speakers for the conference include New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
“We don’t know what shape it would take yet,” Sawicki said. “But we want an event that gets the immediate community and hopefully the larger community to come together on the issue.”
The Sexual Misconduct Task Force is in its infant stages at this point, but Sawicki emphasized his commitment to the issue, and said he looks forward to working with students and administrators with the group.
“Any event that leads to a violation of another human being shouldn’t happen anywhere, and definitely not at Fordham.”
Kris Venezia is a Staff Writer for The Fordham Ram.