Presidential task force sets to take on sexual harrassment

In compliance with legal requirements to participate in President Obama’s new sexual harassment policy for colleges, Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang created a task force to evaluate how SMC currently handles cases of sexual harassment. According to Tsang, the task force will create a system to help victims of harassment and keep the school legally compliant with new federal policies. In addition, the task force will create campus procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints, and also educate younger students about the issue.

This move is in order to address President Obama’s college campus SaVE Act passed in March last year designed to change campus culture. Colleges are now required to compile statistics for incidents of sexual assaults, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, and certain other crimes.

According to an SMC police department crime report for 2011 through 2013, the college campus has one reported rape on public property, and two accounts of sexual battery in 2011 and 2013.

The act additionally requires colleges to provide sexual assault awareness programs for students and employees. Several colleges, including Georgetown University and University California Berkeley, have made sexual assault awareness training programs mandatory for students. UC Berkelely even decided to block registration for students who did not complete the programs.

SMC’s presidential task force involves students, administrators and faculty members including Associated Student vice president, Caitlin Corker, campus police, and SMC’s title IX sexual harassment officer, Sandy Chung. These members were chosen by Tsang based on recommendations, their position at SMC, work experience, and their ability to assist the college.

As apart of the process, students will be surveyed concerning awareness of sexual harassment on campus. The task force will also look at other colleges with sexual harassment programs in place, such as UCLA, and refit their programs to the needs of SMC.

Parts of the SMC community are skeptical whether the task force will actually fully address the issue and help stop sexual harassment on campus.

Students on campus have requested that a Gender and Sexuality Equity Center (GSEC) be created. According to the petition, the center “will challenge societal norms that have been used to oppress and marginalize”. Additionally, it will “offer a safe an inclusive space where the campus and community can effectively support the academic mission of the university.”

An SMC student apart of this group, physics major Kamy Fereidouni, feels that the political environment of administration will not allow for change. “The administration will not get anything done. They will drag out the process until the hype goes away. The bureaucratic systems are against changing anything,” he said.

Corker has expressed her concerns of the timeline of the task force as well, noting that it often takes a long time to see change on campus “because there’s a lot of politics in the administration. There’s politics from top down.”

Tsang said in response to this group, "Nobody has the answers right now. I don’t know how anyone can say that taking time to do something right is wrong. Then what is right?”

According to Tsang, the deadline for the final reports from the task force will be in mid spring. With little time between now and spring, Tsang commented that the task force has their work cut out for them.

Corker wants to see the task force have the survey at least completed by the end of her time as A.S. vice president. “I’m going in there hopeful,” said Corker. “I think that’s the only way you can go into something like this: hopeful that change will be made.”