Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

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February 24, 2024

Task force announces proposal

Augustana’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention delivered its report to President Steven Bahls on May 1, addressing how the college could better promote healthy relationships and informed respect.
Task force coordinator Jane Simonsen, along with 17 other staff members and students, created the 10-page report the group began at the end of the last academic year.
Public Relations Director Sam Schlouch said he is unsure of when Bahls would respond, but that the report was a priority.
“There’s no place for sexual assault at Augustana,” said Bahls in an email. “I look forward to reviewing the report from the task force so that we as a community can continue to work hard on this issue.”
The report highlights six short term goals the task force believes could be implemented in the next six months: creating a standing committee for programming sexual health/violence prevention, creating programming for first-year students using classroom discussions, having co-cirricular activities and residential life programming, recruiting campus leaders to participate in bystander workshops, recruiting 2-3 students to intern in a program serving as sexual health peer educators, planning a new OSL committee that addresses sexual health and building “multi-disciplinary” partnerships between faculty and students for research and analysis.
Simonsen said that one of the task force’s goals was to have consistent messages in Residential Life and Office of Student Life programming that is “not just one guest speaker.”
“Our programming has not been bad here, but it’s different people doing it in different places, and those groups don’t have the chance to come together at the beginning of the year and say, ‘Alright, what’re the needs of this campus, and what’re the messages that we need to get out during the course of the year?’” said Simonsen.
The standing committee the task force proposes would be able to do targeted research-based programming and analyze the effectiveness of that programming.
“OSL and Res Life people are expected to basically address all of the issues within student life, in addition to doing things like regular entertainment programming, so I think the response there is that it would be helpful to have some packaged programming so we could say, ‘This is what we want to accomplish this year,’” said Simonsen.
The task force stated in the report that instead of bringing Sex Signals (a improvisation group that discusses issues pertaining to sexual violence on college campuses), which costs $5,500 for two performances during Welcome Week, the college should instead invest in other educational programs, such as Green Dot, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) or the BACCHUS network. Simonsen said if Sex Signals is replaced by one of these other programs, the program chosen would depend on the cost.
“We do know that that kind of programming, while it introduces the themes, is not the most effective kind of programming…you have an outside group come in and do a presentation when students are tired and they don’t really have an opportunity to respond in a smaller group situation to those themes,” said Simonsen, who said the college could be using student actors in a much more cost-effective way.
Task force member Chelsea Ashland, a senior who has been analyzing Augustana’s sexual health programming and students’ opinions towards that programming for the past two years, said that our programming now is sporadic.
“There’s a lot of things we are hitting right, and there are a lot of things that we are missing, so (the taskforce is) really trying to find those holes and patch them,” said Ashland.
Ashland said Augustana students have a basic understanding of what sexual assault is, but the college’s current approach to sexual assault is not focused enough on prevention or on being victim centered.
“Campus culture isn’t going to change overnight,” said Ashland.
Ashland said the college should be more invested in getting students more involved in investing in the well-being of their peers, improving relationships and support with survivors of sexual assault as well as how the Title IX process works.
“While there are aspects of victim supportive culture on campus, there’s a lot that’s missing,” said Ashland.
Simonsen said that she hopes to have student interns to help establish a sexual health center at Augustana as well as to possibly have interviews for a professional faculty position to coordinate programming, education and assessment during the next academic year since there is a divide between the administration having to handle compliance, and Residential Life and the OSL handling the programming.
“What we don’t have right now are faculty and staff who are particularly trained in sexual violence prevention or victim advocacy,” said Simonsen. “We would want that (professional faculty member) trained in sexual violence prevention or victim advocacy.”
Simonsen said such training can be done through Safe Path in Davenport, a family resources center advocating for families, children and individuals according to the organization’s website.
Overall, Simonsen said the task force has given her a perspective into how the rest of the campus is handling the issue of sexual violence.
“I’m confident that something will happen, whether or not it is exactly what’s in (the report),” said Simonsen.
Members of the task force included Umme Al-wazedi (WGS department chair), Ashland, Katey Bignall (Greek Life director), Evelyn Campbell (dean of students), Sheri Curran (Augustana’s general counsel), Laura Ford (director of Human Resources), Biology professor Kevin Geedy, Associate Dean Wendy Hilton-Morrow, Jessica Nodulman (Communications Studies professor), Tom Phillis (Chief of Public Safety), Jennifer Popple (WGS department chair), Psychology professor Jessica Schultz, Simonsen and Athletic Director Mike Zapolski.
Richie Benson (Student Government President), Christina Lorge-Grover (former director of residential life) and Alisha Smith (former assistant director of residential life) were on the task force but were unable to continue to serve.

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Task force announces proposal