Panel discusses coalition response to campus sexual assaults

Kel Werkheiser, News Co-Editor

Bucknell’s campus response to sexual assault rates and concerns was presented in the form of a panel on April 21, discussing a coalition form of response.

Panelists included Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Advocacy Coordinator Kristin Gibson, Institutional Equity & Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hart, Associate Director for Gender & Sexuality and Women’s Resources Abby Fite, Assistant Director of Public Safety Jamie Grobes and Professor Bill Flack.

Gibson joined Bucknell staff this past September, and quickly become an integral part of SpeakUp’s directionality and progress. 

“I am there to provide advocacy,” Gibson said. “So advocacy is distinct from counseling and I say that because I don’t have a counseling background. I actually have a sociology background.”

Gibson instead works to create a safe space for students, especially on a small campus such as Bucknell’s where victim survivors may find it difficult to build these safe spaces if they’re at higher risk of running into their perpetrator. 

“So advocacy isn’t meant to be in lieu of counseling, it’s meant to really just kind of stand in support of,” Gibson said. “I am a listening ear. I am a friendly face. I am helpful, and when I need to be, I am insistent on making sure that victim survivors’ needs are being met by Bucknell.”

The next panelist was Samantha Hart, who spoke on her contribution to the efforts from the perspective of her legal background. She spoke on the origins of Title IX, in order to give context and show positive progress that had been made since its instatement. What began in 1972 as an initiative to maintain gender equality in education later expanded to include sexual harassment and misconduct.

“Now, my personal philosophy and my work is that [current Title IX rules] are, again, the floor,” Hart said. “And I want to know how we can go above and beyond to make sure we’re supporting our canvas population in a way that’s even better, right than just just that minimum level of compliance.”

Hart broke down the steps that the Title IX office goes through after receiving a report, so that this process can be transparent to the campus community.

“Once I receive a report, whether it comes in directly or it comes in through a mandatory reporter, I will reach out to the victim survivor, or the complainant is the term we utilize in our process,” Hart said. “It’s really important for you to know that that person never has to respond to me. They are not required to meet with me or respond to me.”

“I am required to make sure they have the information they need to make an informed decision on how to move forward,” Hart continued. “And so that email will say, in detail, here are all your options. ‘Here are confidential resources on campus if you want to talk to someone more thoroughly, but you don’t want to document it by university. Here’s where you can go.’ And then of course I always end up with, ‘Please let me know if you want to together and discuss any of these things further.’”

The next panelist was Grobes, who spoke about the position that Public Safety holds in combatting sexual assault on campus.

“What we don’t want to do is be one of the reasons that [victim survivors] don’t reach out to law enforcement,” Grobes said. “Bad policing leads to survivors feeling helpless and also powerless.”

Grobes took initiatives to bridge the gap between public safety and the campus community, to help eliminate any hesitancy towards reaching out for help. One of these initiatives was community outreach initiatives, to help acknowledge that students have specific experiences relating to law enforcement and that their feedback is important. She also wanted to emphasize that there are efforts being made to maintain transparency within the department.

The panel closed out with a Q&A portion. Writing Center Consultant Margaret Cronin asked, “What works to get men involved in this?” 

Gibson, as a SpeakUp advisor, mentioned that they have three new male speakers. There is also an active ally plan on campus that has been educating members of the Greek community on issues of sexual violence. Regardless, there Gibson acknowledged that it is still a challenge getting men engaged in the conversation.

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