Support for survivors

CAMPUS ISSUES: The ASUC Senate’s vote of no confidence in campus sexual assault policies was a necessary step to start serious dialogue about this issue.

UC Berkeley must be a safe place for survivors of sexual assault. If a majority of the ASUC Senate, after considering input from survivors, feels that current campus policies are grossly inadequate, there is clearly a problem that the campus administration must address.

Last week, the senate passed a bill expressing no confidence in campus policies and disciplinary procedures regarding sexual assault. Among the bill’s claims are that the campus provides more information for those accused of sexual assault than for those who survive it and that if the campus decides not to pursue disciplinary action, “there is no recourse or appeals process for the survivor to challenge this decision.” But the bill goes beyond just condemning policies — it recommends several prudent changes that the campus needs to carefully consider.

Not all senators were on board with the strongly worded bill. Five voted against it, apparently because they wished to see the bill take a softer approach, as opposed to holding no confidence in the campus. Those senators are right in that the bill does take a very hard-line stance, but when the concerns are so serious and about an issue as severe as sexual assault, a strong  position is necessary.

Voting no confidence in campus policies, as extreme as it may sound, will hopefully prove to be a successful method of commanding the administration’s attention. A senate bill expressing similar concerns in a less condemnatory manner might be easier for the campus to politely rebut and then ignore. A bill saying that students’ elected representatives hold no confidence in these policies is a piece of legislation that administrators cannot ignore.

The senate was right to take strong action against the current policies. The bill does a commendable job bringing what seem to be widespread concerns to light.
And after a year in which the number of reported rapes in Berkeley nearly doubled, the issue is all the more urgent to substantively address. If nothing else, the senate bill will open the door to productive dialogue between administrators and student leaders about how the campus can do more for sexual assault survivors.

Now that the bill has passed, the senate should continue its work to bring attention to these problems. Campus officials, for their part, need to show that they are taking the ASUC’s concerns seriously.