This post was written by Hatchet reporter Iliana Hagenah.
Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama Tina Tchen spoke in Funger Hall on Friday about GW’s next steps to advancing a conversation about sexual assault on campus.
Tchen spoke after GW’s final panel event for the “It’s On Us” campaign’s “week of action.” The Student Association and Students Against Sexual Assault planned the series of events, aimed at changing the way students think about and discuss sexual assault, to coincide with programs at 183 other schools across the country.
“You are changing lives, but I will say more broadly, you are changing culture,” said Tchen, who is also the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The panel included students, faculty and staff who are part of the newly formed sexual assault response committee, which will advise Provost Steven Lerman on how GW can improve resources and awareness on campus. Students have already suggested making sexual assault prevention training mandatory for members of Greek life and putting resources on course syllabi.
Mark Levine, GW’s senior associate dean of students, said the committee “gives credibility to the topic,” and would carry on the momentum from the week of events.
The panel argued for not only creating conversations about sexual assault prevention through mandatory education, but also training GW staff in how to encourage that dialogue.
In 2013, GW approved a new sexual assault and harassment policy. That policy initially limited the amount of time students had to file a formal complaint against an alleged defender. But the University decided to lift that time limit after student leaders criticized it for possibly deterring students from coming forward.
“What you all should know is that the statute of limitations on different types of sexual assaults is very long, so there really is no need for you to talk to us right away,” Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said.
More than 700 students have signed the “It’s On Us” pledge, which looks to promote bystander intervention and collective responsibility for ending sexual assault. As they came to and left the event, students took photos with pledge signs.
“You have to keep talking about it and talking about it,” Darnell said. “At Starbucks over coffee or in the study room. Keep, keep, keep talking.”