Students Help Create a Key University Policy

Concerned over national statistics that one in four college women, one in 33 men and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime -- student activists Elischia Fludd and Jerin Alam two years ago decided that CUNY needed a University-wide plan to prevent sexual violence and help victims of such assaults.

policy Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick Schaffer, right, with professor
Katie Gentile, left, and task force student member Elischia Fludd.
Their efforts helped bring about the policy approved June 28 by the CUNY Board of Trustees -- to the cheers of those who had worked for it. The plan includes new and comprehensive guidelines for students and counselors, establishes disciplinary procedures, creates on-campus advocates for victims, provides education and training for faculty and staff, and ensures assistance for students in obtaining medical care and counseling, among other initiatives.

In approving the new policy, the Trustees noted that in order to maintain a safe environment "it is critical to provide an appropriate prevention-education program and have trained professionals to provide vital supportive services." Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said: "We want all victims of sexual assault, stalking and domestic and intimate partner violence to know that the University has professionals and law-enforcement officers who are trained in the field to assist student victims in obtaining help, including immediate medical care, counseling and other essential services." When Fludd, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice member of Students Active for Ending Rape, and Alam, president of the Women's Rights Coalition at Hunter College, joined forces two years ago to present a proposal to Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick Schaffer they discovered he was in the process of reviewing University policies and was coming to the same conclusion.

"The students played a significant role in getting me to look at the need for such a policy," he said. "Since we are not essentially residential campuses, we don't appear to have many incidents."

A task force assembled by Schaffer -- composed of students, faculty, representatives of the University Faculty Senate and the University Student Senate, counselors, lawyers, Women's Center leaders, Student Affairs staff and others -- worked for two years to construct a plan that would assist and protect student victims.

Professor Katie Gentile, director of the Women's Center at John Jay College, whose research deals with on-campus sexual violence nationally, was a leading member of the task force.

"A handful of super-active students have been agitating for a while for the need for such a policy and they worked on the task force," said Gentile. "It was needed in order to develop and implement standardized procedures for dealing with the issues and training people who help students who are victims of such violence. The stalking of students at commuter colleges sometimes follows them from home. I see students who are victims of rape and other sexual violence and who are being stalked."

Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Peter Jordan, who will monitor compliance, sent copies of the new policy in June to the chief Student Affairs officers and legal designees at each college and asked them to incorporate it into their college's publications, especially catalogues, and to post it on their websites and include it in student orientation sessions this fall.

"This is an issue of campus safety," he said. "Not only women are in danger, there can be male victims as well.

Off-campus incidents will be considered. Although we have no jurisdiction, we can support students through counseling. We have developed behavioral intervention. Teams are functioning at most campuses. The idea is that we educate students not just for the safety of that student but for the community as well."

Procedures for reporting incidents of sexual assault and other forms of violence will include different points of on-campus contact for students, faculty and staff -- including the Public Safety Department, the Women's/Men's Centers and Counseling Departments and/or the Dean of Student Development/Student Affairs. Each provides different forms of assistance and together address many of the needs of survivors of such violence.

Students who have been victims of such assault are urged to contact law-enforcement personnel immediately and to seek immediate medical attention. They will also be provided an on-campus advocate to help them handle the various aspects of their follow-up ordeal.

Both Elischia Fludd and Jerin Alam have graduated but don't think their work is finished. Alam is co-chair of the National Young Feminist Task Force of the National Organization for Women and is active in Bring in the Bystander, which works on involving the whole community in preventing assault. Fludd, a forensic psychology major, who started at BMCC, is working at a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and formerly worked in crisis counseling at North Bronx Central Hospital. She plans to enroll at the University for Peace in Costa Rica for a master's in Gender and Peace Building.

Goals of the New Policy

  • Providing clear and concise guidelines for students to follow in the event that they or others they know have been the victim of a sexual assault, domestic/intimate partner violence or stalking.
  • Assisting victims of sexual assault or abuse in obtaining necessary medical care and counseling, whether on or off campus.
  • Providing the most informed and up-to-date education and information to its students about how to identify situations that involve sexual assault, domestic and intimate partner violence, or stalking, and ways to prevent these forms of violence.
  • Educating and training all faculty and staff members -- including counselors, public safety officers and student affairs staff and faculty -- to assist victims of sexual assault, domestic/intimate partner violence or stalking.
  • Ensuring that disciplinary procedures are followed in the event that the alleged perpetrator is a CUNY student or employee.