Students and Board of Visitors React to Sexual Assault Allegations
Stephon Dingle and News Staff
November 25, 2014
Tuesday on Grounds, students made their voices heard along with the board.
Both groups are disturbed by allegations and ready to make meaningful change during a cloudy time for the university. After the almost three hour long meeting, feelings were mixed, but all agreed solutions need to be serious and imminent. The Board of Visitors ultimately voted unanimously to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy in sexual assault cases, with the specific policy statement still in the process of being drafted.
Outside, students protested.
Inside the meeting things also got a little testy as board member Edward Miller, via conference call, shamed the board for laughing at various points of the meeting, finding no humor on such a serious issue and time for the university.
"I've got to tell you, if I was a student at the university and I was listening to this, I would be furious. All I've heard for the last 40 minutes or so is laughter."
Outside of occasional laughter, important issues were discussed and board members think it's time for change, and now.
"It's a culture we need to change and I'll leave it at that," commented Dr. L.D. Britt, board member.
But students didn't seem too impressed by the discussion.
Nour Sulaiman, UVa Third-Year, went farther in her description of the culture and the attitude she saw as part of the meeting, saying "They seemed quite apologetic and they seemed to make a lot of excuses for fraternities and the culture of sex assault against women at fraternities."
"I just learned that the fellow's name was Dr. Long, and he was pretty dismissive about the emotional reaction. He kind of spoke to the problem with the emotions involved in people's reactions, which I think in fact is only natural," commented Amanda Tolka, former UVa student and sexual assault survivor.
Tolka was also taken aback by comments made about having a knee-jerk reaction to allegations. "I was shown a website when I first went here called "UVa Victims of Rape" dedicated to this issue, so this isn't a 'knee-jerk' reaction, this has been happening for decades and we know that its been happening in more than just that frat, so that was frustrating."
For the Board of Visitors, the proper priorities are important. "We need to refocus on our tradition as far as what's best for students, and everything else is peripheral," said Dr. Britt.
A town hall meeting will be scheduled to hear feedback on proposals to make the sweeping changes students and board members agree need to be made at the university heading into the next semester, including funding and providing resources to prevent sexual assault.
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