Untouched post-it pads and notecards laid on top of the grey, plastic table at last Thursday’s “Beyond Compliance Forum.” The cardboard box set beside them, asking the audience to “Submit Anonymous Questions Here,” remained empty.
On Oct. 11, about 50 individuals attended a forum for the Beyond Compliance initiative at Kresge Town Hall. Hosted by the Office of Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp, the event brought campus programs together to discuss their plans to address sexual violence and sexual harassment (SVSH) in the upcoming year.
Beyond Compliance, started in 2016 by then CP/EVC Alison Galloway, is an initiative aiming to reduce the likelihood of SVSH on campus.
The primary safeguard against SVSH is the UC Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy — a UC Office of the President (UCOP) policy, which outlines how the university should respond to prohibited conduct in order to ensure an SVSH-free education and employment environment. The campus Title IX office is tasked with implementation of the policy. The SVSH policy is open to public comment until Dec. 14.
“This is the last chance to make input on any big changes that we want to see in the policy,” said UCSC Title IX Student Advisory Board representative Alison Hanson.
Some of those in attendance included representatives from Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE) and Title IX, as well as Student Union Assembly (SUA) president Ayo Banjo. The forum was open to both students and staff, but among the small audience, the lack of students was evident.
“I wasn’t expecting a lot of students if I’m being honest. I think the administration often doesn’t do a great job at outreaching to students,” said Katelyn Keeshen, a third-year student present at the forum. “Meetings like this […] often aren’t spaces that are made for students to really participate in.”
Newly appointed Title IX director Isabel Dees mentioned student engagement is one of Title IX’s goals.
“How to engage students and ensure their participation and interests are represented on [SVSH] is itself a conversation we want to engage students in,” said Dees.
Dees went on to say that Title IX has many community engagement programs that focus on outreach and education. Among these programs is the systemwide Title IX Student Advisory Board, which was created in January 2018. The UCSC student representatives for the board Alison Hanson and Gianna Passalacqua were present at the forum.
“Our role is to elevate student voices in trying to end SVSH on campus,” said Hanson. “We’ve been able to make some specific changes [to the SVSH Policy], some phrasing of the policy that we found problematic, some gaps that we think certain experiences aren’t being represented. We’re trying to push for more queer and trans inclusion in the policy [as well as] considering students with disability.”
Hanson also admitted there were some limits to the advisory board. For example, all the changes they make have to be bargained for with UCOP.
“There’s certain things [about] the way that the policy is written in terms of how sexual violence is defined or described as part of the conduct of the policy [that] we wanted to more radically re-write so that it doesn’t end up being a list of body parts,” said Hanson.
In the same open question section, attendees touched on the lack of trust students have in the Title IX office.
“To break down mistrust and to make those spaces more accessible and more welcoming, it’s going to take more than an event that a limited number of students go to,” said Keeshan, one of the few students in attendance. “It’s a broader community conversation.”