Students to aid UI on sex assault

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MARCH 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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By the end of the semester, several students will be able to have a more direct conversation with University of Iowa officials about sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Advisory Committee is part of UI President Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat sexual assault.

Starting March 11, officials began accepting applications for the group. The application process ended March 17, and approximately 175 applications were received, said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

These applications will be narrowed down to approximately 12 students who will be appointed to the committee.

The committee will consist entirely of students and will assist officials in making decisions, Vice President for UI Student Life Tom Rocklin wrote in an email.

“The committee will advise the president and other university officials on matters related to sexual misconduct affecting students,” he said.

Some of the decisions will include procedures, polices, and practices the university has related to sexual assault.

Rocklin said the committee should be able to start meeting before the end of the semester, and it will meet monthly.

UI graduate student Rachel Graber, who applied for a position on the committee, said it is important to get the perspective of students who have been directly affected by the university’s policies.

“I don’t feel like anybody really talks to people who have been through the system,” she said. “If we don’t ask them, I don’t know that we can legitimately say we’re their voice.”

In addition to gaining a valuable perspective, Graber said, it would be important for the committee to expedite decision-making.

“What might happen is the [decision-making] process will just drag out,” she said. “I think that whoever’s on the committee needs to be very assertive.”

There have been nine sexual assaults reported at the university during this academic year, with five during the current semester. The most recent sexual assault was reported on March 11.

UI Ph.D. candidate Jeannette Gabriel said while a committee could be helpful, it may not be the right first step for the university.

“I think there’s a real need for people to educate themselves,” she said. “Getting input from individuals doesn’t take those institutional [problems away].”

Rocklin agreed student input is necessary for the committee.

“Students are uniquely positioned to inform policymakers about the conditions they encounter and the needs they experience,” he said. “They can also provide feedback on how the university’s existing and planned efforts are received by students.”

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