Daily Camera / CU News | Sarah Kuta
Students at the University of Colorado gathered Tuesday for a "town hall" discussion about preventing and reporting sexual assault, a topic that's seen a surge of national attention in recent months.
Around 50 students heard from campus officials who are working to address sexual violence on the Boulder campus as part of a panel discussion organized by CU Student Government.
Campus officials briefed students on available resources and services, and then fielded questions about what CU is doing to improve orientation sessions, create a more welcoming campus climate and increase outreach and education efforts around sexual assault.
The forum comes during a federal investigation into the Boulder campus for its handling of a 2013 sexual assault. CU is also facing a civil rights lawsuit from a male student who claims he was suspended for a night of consensual sex.
The White House has spotlighted campus sexual assaults with a new task force and a campaign targeted at bystanders as more than 90 colleges and universities undergo investigations into their handling of sexual violence complaints.
Valerie Simons, CU's new Title IX coordinator, talked to students about the role consent plays in discussions about sexual assault. Simons was hired last summer to coordinate CU's compliance with Title IX, the federal gender equity law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
She explained that CU's standard requires active, voluntary consent using words or actions.
"Silence is not enough," she said. "We always talk about an agreement. There's got to be an agreement between these parties to do the same thing, the same way, at the same time."
Simons said she is looking to beef up CU's Office of Institutional Equity, formerly the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, which investigates claims of discrimination and harassment, including sexual assaults. She said she hopes to hire one or two additional investigators, a full-time education and prevention director and additional trainers.
Simons said her office also has created a new position called a program manager for accommodations and interim remedies. Once hired, that person will help coordinate accommodations for victims, such as when that person needs to miss class, and interim remedies, which can include a no-contact order or a temporary suspension for the respondent.
Students also heard from Melissa Zak, chief of the CU Police Department, who said she hopes to create an environment where more victims feel comfortable reporting sexual violence.