American University students have been sparring for days with university vice president Gail Short Hanson over her refusal to sign off on a grant application that could funnel $300,000 to sexual assault prevention to the school. Today, students managed to secure Hanson's signature—not on that critical grant, though. Hanson signed a document today promising to "collaborate with students to complete a comprehensive plan of action" on sexual assault prevention—one that may not go into effect until 2014. The full agreement, and some analysis, after the jump:
At a sit-in in the administrator's office, American University student activists presented Hanson with the five sexual assault prevention goals they'd like to see the university address, grant money or no. They're asking AU to hire a victim advocate "to provide outreach and advocacy to victims and survivors"; amp up training for AU public safety officers, student conduct council members, and conflict resolution staff; start up a campus "Men Creating Change" student group to get men involved in sexual assault prevention; create a team to "review and enhance policies, protocols, and services for survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking" on campus; and "establish a mandatory education program for all new students on sexual assault."
Hanson inserted some minor handwritten notes on the document before signing it. She made one particularly conspicuous edit: Hanson, who rejected the grant application in part because it would place an administrative hold on students who failed to complete sexual assault training, amended the document to eliminate the word "mandatory." Instead of agreeing to work to "Establish a mandatory education program for all new students on sexual assault," Hanson agreed only to "Ensure that all new students are educated on sexual assault." Then, she signed on merely to "collaborate with students on a comprehensive plan of action" and host an "open forum" on that plan by Oct. 15 ("if possible.")
It's unclear how American University will "ensure that all new students" receive sexual assault training if it's not mandatory. And it's even more unclear how the school will manage to fashion a successful grant application in the future if it won't require all of its students to participate in those trainings. "Dr. Hanson has expressed a discomfort with mandatory sexual violence education in the past and I think that her correction is a reflection of that," says Leigh Ellis, an American University senior who has been working to secure administrative support for the sexual assault prevention resources. "While I am concerned by her correction," Ellis adds, "I am also confident that the students at AU will advocate for the development of a program that includes a mandatory educational component."