Administration works to improve sexual assault prevention

The sun shines and music plays as students gather outside Founder’s Hall for Guilford College’s Consent Fair.

“People are really excited to see the t-shirts and … fill out (quizzes) to get people to start thinking about these things,” said senior and Community AIDS Awareness Project Vice President Jasmine O’Neill. “I was really excited about the fair.”

Last year, Guilford found itself on a list of schools with Title IX complaints about sexual assault.

The administration is making efforts to fix that.

“It’s a shame that we are on the list, but being on the list puts pressure on the institution to really look out for the students,” said senior and Community AIDS Awareness Project Secretary Khadija Carr.

This year, the administration has appointed Campus Security Authorities, a group of 120 staff persons. Additionally, all staff has gone through training on how to deal with survivors of sexual assault.

“We each took a training course,” said Career Development Center Assistant Director Vivian Lutian. “It certainly has made me aware.”

Those on the list are also mandatory reporters.

“If a student discloses to me that they have been a victim of a sexual assault, I need to report it,” said Assistant Dean of Career & Community Learning Alan Mueller.

Although Guilford will be held more accountable with this policy, mandatory reporting could also impede trust between students and staff.

“Overall, it will be a good thing,” said Mueller. “Whether that is doing a disservice to the student in the moment, I don’t know.”

Either way, Guilford’s staff will be more educated on sexual harassment, and there are many more people on staff involved this year than before.

“It’s people from athletics, the student body, faculty, staff and all over campus,” said Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jennifer Agor.

Students, too, have more resources this semester.

“We created an easy, at a glance resource guide for anyone who’s been a victim of sexual assault,” said Agor. “That sheet of paper has the procedures for what would happen if they went through the process of (pressing charges). It’s a very easy way of making sure students get all of that information.”

The administration is also taking a closer look at what Guilford needs to pay attention to.

“Stalking, domestic violence and dating violence is something we need to start tracking with clearer statistics,” said Agor. “We hadn’t really been addressing those issues in that way before.”

In FYE courses, students are educated about sexual assault in new ways.

“It’s different than how we did it a year ago,” said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Administration Andy Strickler. “A year ago, it was a lot more about sexual health. This is a lot more about sexual assault and making people aware of what consent is.”

More education is taking place outside of the classroom as well.

“We are trying to normalize consent,” said sophomore, consent facilitator and Judicial Affairs Steering Chair Molly Anne Marcotte. “At the moment, consent is a very stigmatized and intimidating concept and does not seem attainable for a lot of people. We have a goal to normalize consent by transforming it into an easy and open dialogue on campus.”

But there are still conversations that need to happen.

“There are pressures in masculinity about being with someone after a night of partying,” said Chair and Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Julie Winterich. “If we can unpack those pressures and ask ‘what does it mean to have a healthy sexuality?’ that can be a way to prevent assault.”

For staff and students, working to create a safe campus environment is the goal.

“It is important for Guilford to support students,” said Marcotte. “We want them to feel validated in expecting those boundaries to be respected. While we are on the right path, it is important to continue promoting information across campus about the ways in which we support survivors.”