Amidst climate survey, USG sexual violence committee holds town hall

Tanvi Bobba, Staff Reporter

Tulane University’s Undergraduate Student Government Sexual Violence Prevention and Response committee hosted their annual townhall on Feb. 1 to discuss the university’s efforts to combat sexual aggression and violence on campus.

University President Mike Fitts opened the event by saying survivors are “heard, believed and valued.”

A 2018 photograph of President Mike Fitts at a prior sexual violence town hall as part of the “All In” campaign at Tulane University. (Avery Fiftal | Staff Photographer)

He emphasized the current campuswide climate survey on sexual violence’s impact on Tulane’s All In campaign. According to Fitts, the survey will allow Tulane to “know better and do better.” 

Next to speak was sophomore Sophi Lucille from Masked Violence, a collective art exhibition. 

During her freshman year, Lucille said she was struck by allegations of assault, rape and stalking at the university, as well as perceived inadequate responses from Tulane administrators.

“Students were having to take the role of caretakers among themselves,” Lucille said. 

Masked Violence, she said, stemmed from her desire to create “more than anything a safe, comfortable space for people to tell their stories.” The project opens in the Lavin-Bernick Center in March.

Much of the town hall was a Q&A with various panelists from Tulane’s Title IX office, the Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education, The Well for Health Promotion, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Programs.

Questions asked about a range of topics including the climate survey’s purpose, resources for marginalized students and supporting survivors of sexual assault.

“The idea of the climate survey is to get a check of the climate here at Tulane and there’s a few different pieces that we’re interested in. One, we do want to learn about rates of victimization among our students since they have been enrolled at Tulane,” said Julia Broussard, interim assistant provost for Title IX affairs. “Another piece that we are really interested in is, for people who have experienced those incidents, did they tell anyone, whether that’s a friend or a therapist…?” 

This year’s climate survey includes questions regarding the efficacy of campus resources, students’ understanding of consent and student alcohol use. Survey questions also explore the effectiveness of campus resources, students’ understanding of consent and student use of alcohol. 

“Our goal is, by the spring of next year, we will be able to present that updated plan to folks along with the report on the data,” Broussard said.

Other panelists discussed the resources already available to students. 

Jennifer Hunt, assistant director of The Well spoke about her sub-division’s programs on stress, sexual health and violence prevention. Hunt described The Well as “the prevention arm of Campus Health.”

Following Hunt, Javonda Nix, director of sexual trauma awareness and response advocacy provided information on STAR, a non-profit organization that provides free services to child and adult victims of sexual violence and offers a 24/7 hotline. 

All of the panelists gave similar comments on how to best support survivors. According to them, it is important to learn proper active listening and to hear from those sexual violence affects most.  

The townhall ended with round table discussions on intersectionality, sexual health and prevention efforts, Title IX and conduct.

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