College sees creation of sexual assault awareness and alcohol task forces

In November, Dean Bolton created the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness. College Council (CC) recently formed the Alcohol Task Force. Both groups have the aim of informing the College community about these critical and pressing issues and are looking for ways to improve the campus culture and mentality on these topics.

Bolton and Mike Reed ’75, vice president for strategic planning and institutional diversity, are in charge of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness. The task force has met twice thus far, on Nov. 9 and Nov. 30.

“The task force was created at the recommendation of Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL) and Rape and Sexual Assault Network (RASAN), both of which observed the large number of student groups working on these issues, and saw the need to coordinate those efforts to make a greater impact,” Bolton said. “The main work of this group is to raise awareness about the meaning, prevalence and impact of sexual assault on campus. By so doing, the task force hopes to both reduce the prevalence of assault and improve support by the community for survivors.”

Members of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness include Psychotherapist Beverly Williams, Health Educator Donna Denelli-Hess, Director of the Multicultural Center (MCC) Lili Rodriguez ’01, Assistant Director of the MCC Justin Adkins and representatives from CC, the Queer Student Union, Women of Color Resource Center, Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), Women of Color Coalition, Women’s Center, Peer Health, RASAN, CUL, Junior Advisor Advisory Board (JAAB) and Committee on Diversity and Community.

“We’ve been talking a lot about prevention and raising awareness,” CC Co-President Francesca Barrett ’12 said. She added that the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness is making sure that appropriate resources and administrative policies are in place to provide support for survivors as well as reduce the weight placed on RASAN to handle issues of rape and sexual assault on campus.

One aim of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness is to encourage victims of sexual assault to report offenses. “I think there is a lot of fear about reporting on this campus,” Barrett said.

The task force is also looking to create a safer space for people who do report and people who want to report, according to Barrett. “I think it’s really important for the school, specifically the student body, to know what is happening. A huge part of this includes students speaking up about rape and sexual assault without being alienated in the community,” she added.

According to the minutes from the Nov. 9 meeting of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness, currently in development around campus are a Men Against Sexual Assault group, a board in Paresky on sexual assault support/reporting, a Claiming Williams event on sexual assault, Winter Study entry talks, a CC forum on the hook-up culture, bystander training and improvement in the investigatory process.

Goals of the Task Force on Sexual Assault Awareness include the formation of a facilitated support group for survivors, more trained advocates, campus conversations and ongoing support for and feedback from survivors.

“My sense is that there’s a lot of hope for talking about rape and sexual assault,” Barrett said.

In addition to this student and faculty committee, there exists another group, the Sexual Misconduct Committee, which involves staff from all of the offices that work on issues of sexual assault, including deans, Campus Safety and Security, MCC, Health Services, the athletic department and RASAN leadership. The group was convened by Reed last year.

“Its main goal was to better coordinate work already being done in several offices on sexual assault prevention and response and also to improve our work campus-wide on that front,” Bolton said. “Progress has already been made regarding clarifying policy, improving investigation, training staff, First Days programming, JA training and a number of other issues.”

The Alcohol Task Force will begin to convene over Winter Study. The following groups will nominate representatives to serve on the task force: CC, RASAN, SAAC, JAAB, JAs,x All Campus Entertainment, Baxter Fellows and neighborhood representatives.

In total, 10 to 14 people will serve on the Alcohol Task Force, according to Barrett, and members will be determined by the end of finals period. The group will serve to “think about and evaluate our drinking culture on campus, what we need to do to improve the social scene and drinking culture and what are some of the consequences of our current culture,” she said.

Specifically during Winter Study, the Alcohol Task Force will meet about once every five days and work on collecting information, Barrett said. During this time, “people have time to really consider how to promote a healthy, safe and fun drinking culture and community on campus,” Barrett said. “The purpose of this is not to make Williams campus dry.

“We want to figure out what is missing right now that is causing problems in the alcohol culture,” Barrett continued. “Is it education?”

As of now, there are no plans for administrators to serve on the Alcohol Task Force.