Saturday, September 20, 2014

Student Senate resolution condemns University of Kansas sexual assault policies

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 11:54 pm | Updated: 2:33 pm, Fri Sep 12, 2014.
Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that condemns the University for its handling of reported sexual assaults. It was written and presented by Emma Halling, interim student body president.
“If you are a victim of rape at this University, you are treated like a liability and not a human being,” Halling said.
In the middle of her speech about the resolution, Halling, a senior from Elkhart, Ind., held back tears as she told senators and present administrators of her own sexual assault story.

She said she was sexually assaulted in high school, but coping as a survivor has been difficult for her on campus.

“For people who don’t think sexual assault and rape are traumatizing, let me tell you what it looks like,” Halling said. “It looks like walking down the boulevard and thinking you see someone who looks like your assailant, and being immediately transported back to that situation.”

Halling has been vocal in her condemnation of the University since The Huffington Post article detailing how the University handled one sexual assault case was published. On Wednesday she was not only one of the loudest critics of the University, but spoke as a survivor.

She said she wants people to realize the breadth and depth of the subject. Halling said she knows it can really impede a student’s ability to succeed at the University, and it’s something she can speak to personally.

“It is traumatic,” Halling said. “It inhibits your ability to pursue an education, and we are not doing a damn thing about it.”

It was clear that those who spoke about the sexual assault situation were ready for a change. Halling and Angela Murphy, Student Senate graduate affairs director, have been serving on the Title IX Roundtable since its creation last fall.

Murphy, who is the treasurer and development director for the roundtable, said she hasn’t felt like student policy change suggestions have been taken seriously.

Halling, Murphy and Interim Student Body Vice President Tyler Childress sat down Friday afternoon with the Chancellor and the provost.

Halling said she was inspired by the conversations at the meeting. She said the Chancellor was interested in every detail of the process and that the three students were able to provide a lot of input.
Murphy said she is optimistic and believes that this is the right climate for the University to set a standard for sexual assault policies.

“This is a great time for KU to set a national standard for how sexual assault is addressed at institutions of higher education,” Murphy said. “I think we have the momentum, we have the right people in place, especially in the student body and I do think we have an administration who is open to hearing these things.”

Morgan Said, a senior from Kansas City, Mo., and student body president elect, said she plans to continue working with Halling and administration on Title IX initiatives.

“Student Senate acted quickly and very directly, something that I don’t think we can say about the University administration at this point in time,” Said said.

Said said she and Natalie Parker, a senior from Overland Park and vice chair of Rights Committee, sat down with Jane Tuttle, assistant vice provost of Student Affairs, on Tuesday to discuss concerns. The pair also urged Tuttle to have someone from Student Affairs attend the open forum on sexual assault at the ECM that night. No one from the office attended, Halling said.

Tuttle, who was in attendance at Wednesday’s full Senate meeting, declined to comment when approached by The Kansan.

— Edited by Emily Brown