American University Students Rally for Sexual Assault Prevention and Support

By Guest Blogger

Since June of 2010, American University students and administrators have been working on a grant application that, if accepted by the Department of Justice, would provide $300,000 to go towards resources for preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors. Seventeen campus offices, three community organizers, and the entire undergraduate senate approved this grant and all of its provisions.

Part of the proposal provided for mandatory sexual assault prevention trainings for all new students. Students would have multiple opportunities throughout their first semester to complete the training. If they failed to complete the training by the end of this period, a stop would be placed on their registration until they fulfilled the requirement.

Although this enforcement is required by the DOJ for grant approval, Vice President of the Office of Campus Life, Dr. Gail Hanson took issue with mandating educational programming (because that’s not what college is all about, or anything), and refused to sign the grant. According to committee members and students Quinn Pregliasco and Leigh Ellis, Hanson had expressed concerns over the stops in October, but had given her approval and urged the committee to move forward. Her refusal to let the proposal go forward came just days before the application deadline (March 31st).

As an American University student and a survivor of sexual assault, this is a crushing blow. It seems as though Dr. Hanson is valuing the comfort of some students, those who do not wish to complete the training, over the safety of others.

I am encouraged by the support our community has demonstrated in the wake of this news. Last night, around 50 students met to discuss the situation. Hanson attended the event and continued to discourage students, stating that there was no way she would change her mind on the grant.

Our community refuses to let the administration sidestep the issue and avoid acknowledging what we all know: sexual assault is real, it happens frequently, and students need advocates. We have decided to continue pushing for resources and programming on sexual violence, regardless of whether this grant application goes through.

Tomorrow, at 11am, students will assemble for a rally on the main quad to demonstrate their frustration and solidarity. Students and D.C. residents are encouraged to attend wearing black and holding signs. You can find information about the event on our Facebook page.

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