Letter to the Editor: Dissenting Voices Releases Aims and Goals

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On Monday, Dissenting Voices (DV) published a 16-page list of “Aims and Goals” for the upcoming year. DV members passed out a summary sheet in the JRC and left copies of the sheet in the mailroom. Interested students can read our full Aims and Goals document on our website: dissentingvoices9.wordpress.com.
The Aims and Goals represents the work of approximately a dozen concerned students who wrote recommendations and did research this semester in order to come up with as comprehensive a list as possible.
The driving force behind our Aims and Goals is this: as students, we demand to live on a campus where the issue of sexual assault is taken seriously.
In recent years, America has witnessed a national crisis around the issue of sexual violence in higher education. Student perspectives and institutional data tell us that our campus, too, is experiencing this crisis acutely. Our high number of reported assaults per year is well documented in news media. Additionally, student perspectives indicate that we are not doing everything we can, as an institution, to respond to incidents of sexual violence and prevent their recurrence.
The Dissenting Voices’ Aims and Goals addresses multiple issues, taking into account the needs of the student body as a whole.
We call on the College to expand violence prevention efforts, improve academic accommodations for students affected by sexual violence and hire more counselors at SHACS, including counselors who are trauma-competent and racially diverse.
We also ask Grinnell to make policy changes geared toward improving procedures for sexual misconduct investigation. The misconduct process must be timely, transparent and equitable to all parties—and the College should work to make sure that all parties are safe from illegal retaliation. Additionally, we urge the Grinnell administration to address racism, sexism and homophobia within the sexual misconduct process. Our chief suggestion is for the College to provide implicit bias training for all staff members involved in the misconduct process.
Our final recommendation speaks to an issue that has been the focus of much student concern: educational sanctions for students who commit violent sexual assaults, such as rape. At a small residential college such as Grinnell, it is widely accepted by students and administrators alike that it is impossible for a victim and a perpetrator to live on campus at the same time without coming into unintentional contact. However, the current Grinnell policy allows students found responsible for “nonconsensual sexual intercourse” to potentially return to school while their victims are still on campus. Additionally, DV is deeply concerned that when the College allows a student found responsible for such a serious offense to return, we send the message that sexual violence is not taken seriously at Grinnell, and since studies show that most perpetrators are repeat offenders, the current policy puts the safety of the student body at risk.
Over the past year, inadequacies in Grinnell’s response to sexual violence have come under federal scrutiny.
In August of this year, Grinnell announced to the student body that our school is under investigation for allegedly violating student rights under Title IX, the law that governs gender equity in education. In subsequent months and years, the Office of Civil Rights will review Grinnell’s efforts to prevent and respond to student activism.
In light of this scrutiny, Grinnell student activism against sexual violence is necessary now more than ever. We have the opportunity to offer to collaborate with the college administration to bring us into Title IX compliance. We also have an obligation to continue to push on issues that have so far gone unaddressed.
— Dissenting Voices