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New bill proposes joint committee on sexual assault

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The Graduate Student Council (GSC) and Undergraduate Senate may combine forces under a new bill to create a joint legislative committee on sexual violence.

The bill proposing the committee was first heard in the Undergraduate Senate on Oct. 11 and in the GSC on Oct. 12, and both bodies will vote on it this coming week. According to the bill, one of the missions of the joint committee is to “review and educate the [ASSU] on the current status of sexual violence at Stanford University.” If the bill passes, the committee plans to meet at least once a month for the rest of the year.

“We thought it would be good for us to have a unified force and create a committee to talk about these issues with a common opinion,” GSC Co-Chair and co-sponsor of the bill Pau Guinart Ph.D. ’18 said. “One of the best things we can do is work more towards education – asking how we can raise awareness and make people more informed.”

The joint committee is the brainchild of Senate Chair and author of the bill Shanta Katipamula ’19. According to Katipamula, the committee has the potential to serve the student body in a variety of ways.

“To provide that advisory role [about university policy] and make sure all the details are fleshed out would be really paramount to what this committee would be doing,” Katipamula said. “[The committee will address] anything else that potentially falls under this umbrella of sexual violence at Stanford – whether it’s having meetings, lobbying administration to make a change or working on projects. It’s not set in stone.”

One of the unique aspects of the bill is that it involves both the Undergraduate Senate and the GSC. Katipamula describes the importance of this cooperation within the ASSU.

“I think it’s really important to make sure we’re all on the same page across the association … so that we can all sit down together and find out what each body is doing to address the issue of sexual violence at Stanford, and then make sure that we’re supporting each other,” Katipamula said. “Anything we try to do is a lot stronger if we all have each other’s backs and are able to collaborate.”

Matthew Baiza ’18, the founder of the Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention,  believes the committee has potential to make a change.

“I’m really excited to see what the committee does,” Baiza said. “This shows that there’s a student consensus at least in the undergraduate and graduate bodies that they want to work on this issue, and they want to work on it comprehensively and in a unified manner. That’s a good sign that students are wanting to take up the issue and really be leaders on it.”

Another mission of the committee described in the bill is to “develop strategies and action plans for recommending changes to the current Title IX reporting processes.” Katipamula describes how it’s not only important to work on preventing sexual assault, but also work on education regarding what to do when sexual assault occurs.

“We talk about preventing sexual assault, but the truth is sexual assault happens here at Stanford, and we need to make sure people know what to do in those situations,” Katipamula said. “Unfortunately, chances are someone you know will go through that and you want to be there for them and support them.”

According to Katipamula, this cause requires the participation of the entire community.

“To carry this movement forward, this shouldn’t be an issue that just survivors speak about, in the same way that we don’t expect minority groups to educate everyone on issues of racism,” Katipamula said. “That’s an unfair expectation and it’s something that we’ve moved away from as a society, and that similarly needs to happen in this arena. Everyone else needs to step up and work towards bettering this cause.”

 

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