Town hall meeting held to discuss campus safety
Posted on September 29, 2016
More than 100 people including students, faculty and staff members attended a town hall discussion in the Kirkhof Center September 29 to discuss sexual assault and campus safety.
The meeting was sponsored by leaders from Grand Valley student organizations including Student Senate, Eyes Wide Open and Greeks Against Sexual Assault.
President Thomas J. Haas opened the meeting saying he is devastated by the reports of sexual assaults near campus. "Our students are part of my collective family. I'm a dad and grandfather and this impacts me and all of us personally," said Haas. "We will continue to work with our partners on and off campus to ensure the safety of our students."
Ella Fritzemeier, president of Student Senate, said it is important to show support for one another. "The perpetrators are the ones to blame for these incidents and we must support the victims. It's on us," said Fritzemeier. "Be an active bystander and report anything you see."
Malayna Hasmanis, president of Greeks Against Sexual Assault, also urged those in attendance to support victim-survivors and said victim blaming is not acceptable. "We need to show victims the love they deserve," she said. "We must unite to eliminate fear and not be paranoid."
Aly Phillips, president of Eyes Wide Open, said Grand Valley has created an atmosphere where victims feel comfortable coming forward and reporting sexual assault.
The speakers then took questions from the audience. One person asked about the installation of blue light phones or call boxes on campus. Fritzemeier said Student Senate research showed they haven’t been very effective on other campuses and said the RaveGuardian app can be installed on any iPhone.
Theresa Rowland, Title IX officer, responded to a question about how perpetrators, who are found responsible, are held accountable. Rowland said if the perpetrator is a student, there are varying degrees of sanctions including and up to suspension and expulsion.
"Title IX investigations are a neutral fact-finding process with all parties concerned," said Rowland. "It is a campus-wide process with up to 13 trained individuals involved. We keep the process as private and caring as possible."
Andy Beachnau, associate vice provost for Student Affairs and director of Housing and Health Services, answered questions about results from a meeting he and Grand Valley law enforcement officials had with property managers from area apartment complexes shortly before the town hall discussion.
"The property managers have agreed to join us in enhancing their security systems," said Beachnau. "They will also be assessing where additional lighting may be needed and will be hiring more security. You will see some immediate changes."
Several members of the audience encouraged those in attendance to inform their friends about educational programs offered by various organizations at the university and services available for victims, including RaveGuardian and SafeWalk.
Victim Advocate Ashley Schulte from the Women's Center ended the meeting by reminding victims that they are not alone and support is available. "Let's all do our best to look out for one another," she said.