STORY BY MORGAN GSTALTER
As of April 6, 500 signatures were reached on the Demand a Better Drake sexual assault awareness petition.
The campaign, organized by a group of Drake students, launched last month as a method of articulating dissatisfaction with the administration regarding the handling of sexual assault accusations made against students.
Demand a Better Drake is a petition that is making five demands to the administration.
1) Making the Student Code of Conduct a student resource that is easily accessibly online.
2) Providing funding for the Office of Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion.
3) Require that public safety officers, mandatory reporters, the judiciary hearing panel, and Peer Mentor/ Academic Consultants (PMACs) receive training.
4) Provide a straightforward list of sanctions for offenders that are in order of severity with appropriate corresponding sanctions.
5) Create a disciplinary panel of staff, faculty and administration to handle investigations and disciplinary matters.
Rachel Dupree, a junior international relations and public relations major, is one of the students working on the campaign.
She said there were a lot of issues with current policies regarding survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault.
“We are going to publicize our demands until we see results,” Dupree said. “We’re trying to be proactive, not reactive surrounding something horrible that happens that would spur a campaign,” Dupree said. “This was sort of spurred here by the rise of sexual assault prevention campaigns at other schools and we started taking a closer look at our policy, especially after the Columbia mattress carrying campaign and the investigation.”
The investigation she refers to is the Title IX investigation brought against Drake University by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding a complaint brought against the university’s handling of a sexual assault case in October.
Demand a Better Drake member and junior Hanna Howard said, “We need to take action now, in conjunction with the investigation, to make sure errors in the handling of a sexual assault don’t happen again.”
Drake is one of 106 colleges and universities also under investigation, which officially starts at Drake on April 13, according to a email sent out by President David Maxwell on April 2.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will be visiting campus next week to conduct an investigation and is holding office hours to meet with students to confidentially discuss the matter of sexual misconduct on campus.
In the email, Maxwell discusses ways that Drake has adopted changes in partnership with the OCR but students working with Demand a Better Drake say that these changes are not sufficient enough.
Maxwell cites the creation of the Office of Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion with Coordinator Alysa Mozak dedicated to assisting students who have experienced sexual assault.
“The Office of Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion is not funded by the university,” Dupree said. “Alysa (Mozak) receives a salary but all of the training her office does is funded through money earned by the ticket sales for the Vagina Monologues and the silent auction proceeds and community funding.”
This is why Demand a Better Drake is requesting the office is provided with funding for the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and Violence Intervention Partner (VIP).
“The policies are not very clear and they are very vague,” Dupree said of another demand. “Everything is very discombobulated.”
“The policy is very hard to find because it is buried in the code of conduct and we want it to be easily found on the Drake website for resources and contact information for help,” Howard said.
One demand that both Dupree and Howard stressed was a straightforward list of sanctions for offenders of sexual assault, listed in order of severity. Currently, this is not specified in the Student Code of Conduct.
“We need a clear-cut list of ‘If this happens, then this happens’ to discipline offenders,” Dupree said. “It needs to be straight-forward and enforced.”
All disciplinary procedures and sanctions would be deliberated and enforced by the proposed disciplinary panel of staff, faculty and administration.
According to the Demand a Better Drake website, the current protocol is for Drake Public Safety (DPS) and the Dean of Students, Sentwali Bakari, to be the primary investigators regarding sexual assaults. Jerry Foxhoven, executive director of the Neal and Bea Smith Legal Clinic, acts as the hearing officer.
The last demand would require this panel, as well as DPS, mandatory reporters and PMACS to receive training in sexual assault response and bystander intervention.
Demand a Better Drake hopes these five demands would streamline the process of how sexual assault cases are handled to protect survivors and properly discipline offenders.
“We want people to know where to go,” Dupree said. “We want there to be a system in place that would be open to what the survivor wants to do. We want to ask them ‘what do you want to happen?’ after a sexual assault. If they want disciplinary actions taken against their attacker, then we want there to be a straightforward response from the university.”
The campaign is also advocating on their Facebook page for the executive Senate candidates to support the petition and follow-through with commitments made during their respective campaigns.
If you are interested in visiting with the OCR while they conduct their site visit, appointments must be made by contacting Laura Schwarz at 271-3133 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions about the upcoming site visit and review, please contact Venessa Macro, the university’s Title IX coordinator, at email@example.com or 515-271-3962.
To sign the Demand a Better Drake petition or learn more about the campaign, visit demandabetterdrake.com or follow #DemandaBetterDrake.