UC Berkeley students meet to address sexual assault on campus

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A group of students from various communities and organizations convened Monday evening to discuss the efficacy of a student-led task force on sexual assault and the shortcomings of campus policy on the issue.

The town hall meeting was held by the ASUC Office of the President’s sexual assault task force, a group established at the beginning of this semester. Attendees discussed the degree to which the task force has been effective and accountable to students thus far.

The 18 students present at the event included members of CalSERVE, the Black Student Union, the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the Gender Equity Resource Center.

“One of the problems (of the task force) is that it hasn’t had much community involvement,” said Austin Pritzkat, who facilitated the town hall and works as ASUC President DeeJay Pepito’s chief of staff.

With 12 core members, the task force is mainly made up of students who work for Pepito or within other student government offices. Members of the group hope students outside of the ASUC will join the task force next semester through an application process.

Several students at the meeting proposed working with administrators to generate publicity and stop sexual assault. UC Berkeley sophomore Disha Banik suggested recruiting a higher-up figure such as Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to present a speech or co-author a campuswide email with Pepito on the issue of sexual assault on campus.

UC Berkeley senior Ella Bastone, a rape crisis counselor for Bay Area Women Against Rape, said at the meeting that she “struggles with” the task of uniting the many community groups that work toward their own projects.

“Why are we all doing separate things when it could be so much more powerful if we all worked together and put all of our energy and efforts into one event or campaign?” Bastone said.

In line with previous student allegations against the campus, students expressed dissatisfaction with the way UC Berkeley handles cases of sexual violence and assault.

In August, state legislators approved an audit of how UC Berkeley, UCLA, CSU Chico and San Diego State University handle such cases, the results of which are expected to be released in April.

In the spring, prior to the audit’s approval, the ASUC Senate passed a controversial bill that expressed “no confidence” in the campus’s procedures for dealing with cases of sexual assault.

Pritzkat called the task force’s pace “too slow” and said it will begin meeting once a week, rather than biweekly, starting next semester.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.