Two words have become one of the most powerful phrases in recent memory: “Me too.” Gaining popularity around the time of the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the popularly coined “#MeToo” is a movement in support of anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct, harassment or assault. This movement has also inspired many to pursue justice by convicting transgressors. Just by looking at recent events like the conviction of Larry Nassar or the buzz around the sexual assault scandal at Michigan State or the banning of former University of Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch from the University’s campus, it is evident that sexual misconduct is a serious epidemic in our world.
Augsburg is no exception. The Department of Public Safety’s annual crime report recorded five offenses of sexual assault during the 2016 calendar year. All of them took place in residence halls. Augsburg Day Student Government recently passed two resolutions directly addressing the issue of sexual misconduct on campus.
One of them calls for Augsburg to increase support with the neighboring Aurora Center, to provide sexual trauma counseling at the Augsburg Center for Wellness and Counseling (CWC) and to mandate faculty and staff to receive training in handling instances of sexual misconduct. Additionally, the first resolution “[Affirms] that we believe, support, and stand with survivors of sexual violence at Augsburg University.”
It seems administration is already working towards bettering their training for faculty and staff. According to Vice President of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Ann Garvey, it was long-standing practice for new staff and faculty members to receive sexual misconduct training. However, this year it is going a step farther. In an email sent to all staff and faculty in December, President Pribbenow said:
“To further support Augsburg’s commitments [to a harassment-free environment], beginning in 2018, all faculty and staff will be required to take an online course: Harassment and Discrimination Prevention, which includes training on Title IX.”
Since then, all faculty and staff have been contacted with information about the two-hour online training which must be completed by March 15. According to Garvey, it will now be common practice for faculty and staff to complete this training each year.
The final statement of the second resolution passed by Student Government reads:
“The Augsburg Day Student Government on behalf of the Day Student Body propose that students found responsible of violating Augsburg University’s sexual misconduct policy be expelled from the University and banned from campus to support a campus community that is free from sexual misconduct.”
According to Garvey, both of these resolutions will be taken into consideration by administration as they work with the Aurora Center to determine what is best for complainants and survivors in writing the sexual misconduct policy. Senior Senator Cody Thompson was one of the Student Government workers who signed the resolutions. As it states on the resolutions, he is a representative of 12 survivors of sexual violence at Augsburg. The idea to write these resolutions originated from a survivor’s response to a student experience survey.
The said survivor (who wishes to remain anonymous) hopes that these resolutions will help to create a climate in which future complainants are believed, respected and helped with their healing process. They expressed that sexual assault is a problem at Augsburg that is not handled well. They also felt that more attention was given towards protecting the accused rather than towards helping a victim’s healing process.
Thompson, who is a survivor himself, says his primary purpose with the resolutions was to “initiate dialogue” around campus about sexual misconduct. He also hopes that as a representative of many survivors on campus, some of the damaged relationships on campus can be repaired. As of press time, it is too early to tell what further considerations will be taken by administration. However, it seems that with the passing of these two resolutions Student Government is promoting the #Metoo message around campus.
This article first appeared in the Friday, February 2, 2018, Edition of The Echo.