Last Tuesday, at the invitation of Student Government, I participated in a town hall meeting addressing the university’s continued commitment to sexual violence prevention. The panel included also Provost Wu, Vice President Pascarell, Police chief Rowan and other members of the administration. I congratulate the student leaders in charge of this important event, which was an example of how difficult issues can and should be addressed through thoughtful, respectful, and civil dialogue. I am grateful to all who participated.
Some of the attendees strongly objected to the law school’s decision to hire Justice Brett Kavanaugh to teach a class in England this summer and to my position on this matter, which has not changed since I explained it in a previous statement.
What I want to acknowledge here is the survivor stories that were bravely shared at the town hall. As I listened, I found myself moved by the courage, care, and determination of those who chose to speak about their very personal and painful experiences. There were many others who also spoke and expressed a strong desire to make the environment at Mason one where all students feel safe and are provided the sexual and interpersonal violence prevention services they need to succeed – and I could not agree more.
This issue is one that I’ve repeatedly spoken and written about. Sexual assaults continue to occur on college campuses and Mason is no exception. Our goal remains steadfast — to eradicate sexual violence from our campuses. I recognize that this goal is ambitious and has often felt elusive. But I don’t believe it to be impossible. And the survivor testimonies make it clear that we need to accelerate our efforts to achieve it. With the sustained commitment of every member of our community we can defeat the harmful epidemic that is sexual violence. It may be because we’ve set our sights so high that our students continue to hold us accountable for taking increased actions to create a safe, responsive, educated, and aware campus. Mason will continue to do just that.
Consistent with several of the measures advocated by student leaders, our plan includes additional resources in this year’s budget for the Student Support and Advocacy Center (two additional staff), Counseling and Psychological Services (two additional psychologists), and Title IX enforcement (increasing from two to four). In addition, University Police will increase their training efforts. Other ideas about changes in Title IX process and police protocols in the interactions with survivors are being considered as well. These initiatives will contribute to strengthen our campus environment both in the prevention of sexual assault and the support of survivors.
My hope is that, despite our disagreements, we will continue to move forward in open dialogue and work together to create a campus free of sexual violence.