Students meet Vice President, talk campus sexual violence

Two VCU students and a staff member participated last month in a listening session at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden, seen here at VCU in January 2013.

Hannah Khan, Stefani Zenteno
Contributing Writers

Two VCU students participated in the first of three student listening sessions with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House last month to discuss sexual violence on college campuses.

The two students, senior philosophy and psychology major Calvin Hall and social work graduate student Kaylin Tingle, are a part of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services, a student organization that aims to educate students about sexual assault and dating violence. Hall and Tingle were accompanied by Tammi Slovinsky, the Coordinator for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services. Hall and Tingle were two of approximately 15 students nationwide who got the opportunity to discuss initiatives for ending sexual assaults and dating violence on campus with Biden.

“The experience was not only beneficial for SAVES, but also indirectly beneficial for all college students,” Hall said. “Essentially, we were not only discussing current practices, but I directly had an effect on the future of governmental policies for students to come.”

Biden headed these listening sessions because of his involvement with the Violence Against Women act, which was drafted by Biden and others in 1994.

Title IX states no person shall be subjected to discrimination, denied benefits or  excluded from any education program or activity on the basis of that person’s gender.

Sexual harassment of students is a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX. The Office for Civil Rights has long recognized that sexual harassment of students by school employees, other students or third parties is covered by Title IX.

Slovinsky said the issue of sexual assault is being talked about a great deal in recent years. She hopes VCU continues to take initiatives against sexual violence on campus.

“For the first time, prevention efforts are focused not on the victim but on the community at large,” Slovinsky said.

VCU made some changes to its sexual misconduct policy in order to accommodate more students. VCU has also deliberated with Title IX consultants to figure out exactly what factors need to be taken into consideration to minimize the threat of violence or sexual harassment on campus.

“I think that VCU is trying to be proactive in figuring out what the best practices are for implementing these policies and we have a good handful of activist and allies on campus that are making sure we’re doing the best possible thing within the guidelines that we have,” Tingle said.

Hall and Tingle discussed with Biden issues such as biannual campus surveys administered to determine the current status and prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses as well as a zero-tolerance policy for perpetrators.

Especially concerned with the LGBT community, Tingle spoke with Biden about gender-neutral restrooms, which decrease the chances of sexual-oriented violence. Tingle also mentioned co-ed housing, an initiative already taken by schools such as George Mason University.

Tingle said she thinks the meeting with Biden was beneficial to SAVES because of the recognition the organization received through the meeting.

“I think that a lot of students don’t know that we exist so hopefully we get some more interested students,” Tingle said. “It’s also beneficial for members to see that if you are involved with this issue and if you are passionate about it you can go places with it.”

Along with meeting with government officials, SAVES puts on annual events such as The Clothesline Project, The Red Flag Campaign and Take Back the Night, to educate the community on new ways to look at the problems that surround sexual violence, as well as offer strategies to combat them.

“Education is a privilege, so students should have the right to feel safe in their environments,” Calvin Hall said. “Social change through awareness and education is our biggest resource for primary prevention. We strive to involve students in events and programs that will open their eyes to the epidemic of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.”

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