Sexual assault policy undergoes revision

By Alison Kim

After receiving reports of dissatisfaction with the sexual assault complaint process, the college is taking steps to respond. A group of students, staff and faculty formed Macalester Responds to Sexual Assault, a committee working to improve Macalester’s protocol. They are accepting comments and critiques until April 1 when they will submit suggestions for revised policy and procedures to the administration. They have placed a comment box in the mail area of the Campus Center and formed a Facebook group. However, the committee has yet to be overwhelmed by feedback.

“We haven’t had any response from the student body,” committee member Suma Setty ’09 said. “We want this process to be transparent, not like we are working behind closed doors.”

Between 2005 and 2007, only six instances of sex offenses were reported according to the most recent annual report released by Macalester Safety and Security. Despite the official reports, Setty said, “It seems like the statistics are ridiculously low. Many of them go unreported.”

Terry Gorman, director of Safety and Security, said the data is gathered from offices around campus that may be alerted to such instances. The offices that take reports are Campus Security, the Sexual Assault Support Team, the Student Affairs Office and the Macalester College Harassment Committee (MCHC).

Despite the reporting options open to students who have been harassed or assaulted, Gorman voiced the concern that the numbers in the report were not representative of reality. “I hope it’s this low, but I’m fearful in my heart that it’s not,” he said.

Few people report instances of sexual assault partially because the terms and conditions for making a report are so complex, according to the Setty. Most people, and especially when under stress, do not have time to read through the entire document to find the information they need. One of the committee’s goals is to make the protocol more reader-friendly by providing bullet points and flow charts.

The committee also hopes to strengthen the support base for victims and distinguish the sexual assault policy from the sexual harassment policy.

To give the committee input, college community members can leave comments in the mail area of the Campus Center, contact the group via email, or SPO an anonymous message to any of the committee members. The students on the group are Adam Bidwell ’11, Setty, Simin Golestani ’09, and Jamila Humphrie ’11. Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, Associate Director of Health Services Tedd Ruthenbeck, Associate Director of Campus Programs Robin Hart Ruthenbeck and English professor Casey Jarrin are the faculty and staff on the committee.