University of Michigan student leaders joined more than 800 other student leaders at nearly 200 other university campuses across the country in a Sept. 16 phone call with White House officials about its new national sexual assault awareness program It’s On Us.
The National Campus Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization, invited the University’s Central Student Government this summer summer to participate in the campaign in an effort to involve the University and all of its student leaders.
CSG approached a diverse group of student organizations such as I Will, a student-run campaign dedicated to sexual assault prevention; the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the University’s chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council; LSA Student Government and the Education Theatre Company.
The campaign was created after the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a 90-day report. The report stated that schools needed to identify the breadth of the issue, prevent sexual assault, sufficiently respond to sexual assault, hold offenders accountable and improve enforcement.
Tina Tchen, executive director for the Council on Women and Girls; Kyle Lierman, White House liaison to Young Americans; and Andy MacCracken, executive director of NCLC, spent the first half of the phone call discussing It’s On Us and its mission. The second half was an open question-and-answer session. The White House launched the campaign nationally on television on Friday.
Lynn Rosenthal, White House adviser on Violence Against Women, hosted a panel on sexual assault awareness and prevention during the television announcement. The panel consisted of MacCracken, Lindy Aldrich, deputy director of Victim Rights Law Center, Sage Hill, a student at Old Dominion University, and Neil Irvin, Men Can Stop Rape executive director.
“Our prevention efforts are only as effective as our enforcement efforts and so the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault will continue working to improve enforcement, transparency and accountability,” Rosenthal said.
It’s On Us hopes to change the national culture surrounding sexual assault. It also wants to promote accountability and bystander intervention, especially by men.
“It’s On Us is a cultural movement … it’s your movement,” Tchen said during the phone call.
The campaign has created notalone.gov, a website designed to help train universities and colleges on how to increase sexual assault awareness and prevention. Another one of the campaign’s initiatives is to have students take a four-part pledge on its website itsonus.org. The pledge states:
“1. To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
2. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur.
3. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
4. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable.”
CSG hopes to also include the I Will commitment to the pledge for Michigan students. The commitment asks signers to empower survivors of sexual assault, become an ally, ask for verbal consent in sexual encounters and participate in the dialogue surrounding sexual assault.
“There’s no proper way to solve sexual assault. Through education, awareness and prevention we can start a conversation on sensitive topics,” said LSA senior Hannah Crisler, the campaign director of I Will. “It’s On Us is starting the conversation.”
Sexual assault prevention has been a recurring topic for the University over the past year. Gaining the most attention was The Michigan Daily’s report revealing former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons’ permanent separation from the school for violating its Student Sexual Misconduct Policy. Following this report, a federal investigation by the Department of Education and another conducted by CSG were launched to evaluate the situation.
CSG’s report found that the University had mishandled the Gibbons case and that the Office of Student Conflict Resolution had inadequate resources to handle the high volume of reported incidents.
In July, The Washington Post determined that the University ranked second in reported cases of sexual misconduct, totaling 64 recorded instances from 2010 to 2012.
The University is currently in the middle of a 30-month-long study of sexual assault on campus and is working to improve resources as new solutions are found.