Panel discusses sexual assault on campus

Lauren Clem

Panelists representing the University administration and medical services presented to a student audience last Monday on Villanova’s alcohol and sexual assault policies. The speakers were Ryan Rost, assistant dean of students, Galeet Farrow, assistant dean for alcohol and drug intervention and Chris Anderson, resident assistant and lieutenant of VEMS.

The event followed a loose discussion-based format in which audience members directed questions to the panelists. The students in attendance used the opportunity to voice concerns and clarify some of the more complex disciplinary proceedings of the University alcohol policy. 

One of the concerns raised was over medical amnesty in VEMS calls involving alcohol use. Under the University’s current policy, the student making the phone call to VEMS is granted amnesty and excused from disciplinary penalty for alcohol use but the student being treated is not. Several audience members were concerned that this policy may discourage students from calling for medical attention for their endangered friends.

Rost acknowledged this concern but pointed out the issue of equal policy enforcement. If students who receive medical treatment do not undergo follow-up disciplinary action, then those who commit minor alcohol offenses will be more severely treated than those who cause greater disruption because of larger alcohol intake.

Farrow also pointed out the progression of penalties. Students who commit a single alcohol offense or are treated by VEMS one time are often let off with a warning, she said. Repeat offenders, while receiving more serious penalties, are often in greater need of the counseling services offered when they are referred to the administration.

Students also raised concerns about the role of Public Safety as a responder and policy enforcer. One audience member questioned how the potential arming of Public Safety officers may change the enforcement of alcohol policy. 

One female student expressed her desire to see more female Public Safety officers on duty at night adding that this could make female victims of sexual violence more comfortable. 

In addition to listing resources available to victims of sexual assault, the panelists also outlined the disciplinary proceedings following a report. The assault is investigated and prosecuted either within the University structure or externally by public law enforcement depending on the choice of the victim.

Throughout the discussion both the panelists and audience members showed respect and a desire to share knowledge about University policy and discussed the misconceptions about their role in helping rather than punishing students for policy violations.

Rost mentioned continued policy change as a way of opening up discussion with students. This year, a new community standards office serves as a place to refer cases she does not deem in need of disciplinary action. The program, which is not disciplinary in nature, serves to promote student health and was the response to 43 percent of alcohol violations this year.