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Improve Cal Poly's Response to and Prevention of Sexual Assault

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On May 10, 2011, the Cal Poly University Police Department issued a “Crime Alert - Timely Warning” stating that a woman had reported being raped at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. As members of the California Polytechnic State University community, we were dismayed to hear that the survivor was raped and may have been drugged. We were further dismayed by the content of the Crime Alert, which focused on protective behaviors that women should take to avoid rape, but did not mention actions that can and should be taken by bystanders to ensure that others do not commit rape or assault. Further, the Crime Alert reported that the woman was intoxicated, yet her state of reported intoxication has nothing to do with whether or not she consented to sex, except that an unconscious woman cannot provide consent.

In light of the occurrence of this assault and the tone and content of the Crime Alert, we call on the university to take all necessary and appropriate measures to convey to the community the gravity of the crimes of rape and drugging another person. It is imperative that the university maintains a safe environment for all students. Failure to do so will be considered a violation of Title IX. We challenge the university to take actions including the following:

1) The underreporting of sexual assaults should be acknowledged in all official campus communications about sexual assault.
* For example, Cal Poly police statistics indicate that since 2007, there have only been five sexual assaults on campus. To suggest that this statistic is representative of the actual occurrences of sexual assault on campus is inaccurate and dangerous, and may lead to further non-reporting of sexual assault by students, and/or amplify feelings of isolation, leading a student not to access existing campus and community resources. Research conducted under a Department of Justice mandate indicates that fewer than 5% of campus sexual assaults are reported to on-campus police or student disciplinary offices (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000).

2) In order to address systemic underreporting of sexual assault, Cal Poly should
* create and publicize a system by which students, faculty, and administrators can make an anonymous report electronically, entering only the information necessary to prevent double reports of the same assault.
* adopt and publicize the following reporting policy: “Those coming forward to report a sexual assault will not be punished for infractions such as underage drinking or recreational drug use at the time of the assault.”

3) An external audit of Cal Poly’s Sexual Assault Response and Reporting policy and practices to assess compliance with Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act
* The U.S. Department of Justice (2002) found that “only 36.5 percent of schools reported crime statistics in a manner that was fully consistent with the Clery Act.” (, a finding which was confirmed by the Center for Public Integrity’s (2010) analysis of compliance with the Clery Act ( As discussed in the CPI report, to meet the reporting requirements of the Clery Act, schools must poll a wide range of “campus security authorities,” including “departments, and centers, such as student health centers, women’s centers, and even counseling centers. The designation also applies to officials who supervise students — deans, coaches, housing directors, judicial affairs officers, to name a few. Experts on the law say that any center or program set up by an institution to respond to crime victims and to serve their needs should be designated a campus security authority, requiring Clery reporting. Only licensed mental-health and pastoral counselors are explicitly exempt from Clery reporting requirements.”
* It is important to note that even if a student does not wish to pursue a university disciplinary response or criminal charges, and/or if the student wishes to remain anonymous, the university is still required to develop a mechanism to report this incident of sexual assault to meet the reporting requirements of the Clery Act. Cal Poly should consult with universities that are currently meeting Clery Act reporting requirements to develop validated mechanisms for reporting.

4) Funding should be allocated/sought to provide mandatory trainings by the SARP (Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention) Center or a similar organization for any college staff members (including faculty and university police) likely to receive an initial report of sexual assault and the supervisors of these staff members. This training must include a focus on the reporting requirements mandated by the Clery Act.

5) Cal Poly’s SAFER Program is the primary education mechanism that exists at our university for preventing sexual assault through education. However, student volunteers, no matter how committed and knowledgeable, should never be responsible for the bulk of prevention efforts at a university. This is the university’s responsibility. We request that an additional full-time position be created in the Gender Equity Center that is focused on preventing and responding to the sexual assault of Cal Poly students in order to ensure continuity and guidance for student peer educators. This person should be a trained rape crisis advocate, and all members of a hiring committee for this position must have completed at least 40 hours of rape crisis training. At least one student should be on the hiring committee.

6) Role of the Gender Equity Center:
* Paid full-time staff of the Gender Equity Center must be immediately notified of all officially reported incidents of sexual assault that involve a member of the Cal Poly community and be included in all discussions of sexual assault of a Cal Poly community member.
* Paid full-time staff of the GEC must be included in any on-campus investigations of sexual assault, including investigations of organizations such as fraternities and sororities.
* Paid full-time staff of the GEC should be involved in the drafting of any official university communications about sexual assault, in order to ensure compliance with federal laws and research-based best practices for the prevention of sexual assault on college campuses.  This oversight is also designed to prevent “victim-blaming” discourses within official university communications.

7) In order to empower paid full-time staff of the GEC to meet the challenges of preventing and responding to the sexual assault of Cal Poly community members, this center should be re-organized to report directly to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Salary should be commensurate with the immense responsibility associated with these positions. Permanent baseline funding streams should be established to support the work of the GEC, and demonstrate the university’s commitment to making Cal Poly a truly safe learning and living environment.

8) Upon the official reporting of any incident of sexual assault of a Cal Poly community member, a California State Sexual Assault Victim Advocate should be contacted.

9)  All incoming students must be mandated to attend programming through WOW week and residential life on sexual assault prevention during their first quarter. Completion of the trainings will require that the student demonstrate knowledge about the definitions of sexual assault, relevant laws, and Cal Poly’s institutional policies. The university should explore options to hold students accountable for this knowledge.

10) Cal Poly’s sexual assault policies, procedures, and relevant programming must be consolidated onto one sexual assault web site that is linked to from and featured prominently on the Cal Poly portal.
* Related to this consolidation, a student committee should be established to review Cal Poly’s policies, procedures, and relevant programming to ensure that all materials are written and presented in plain language that is accessible and relevant to students.
* A student committee should be established to review residential life policies to ensure that these policies prioritize the prevention of sexual assault.
* Further, on-campus disciplinary process and potential outcomes must be clarified to indicate the seriousness of these crimes.

Sources: In addition to the sources cited above, many ideas in this petition were inspired by SAFER (Students Active for Ending Rape) (2007). Change Happens: a guide to reform your sexual assault policy.

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