By: Rebecca Reese, News Editor
Maybe you have seen the flyers for Policy 311-A in the bathroom. The white pieces of paper that describe different scenarios and tell you to, “Know your rights”, but do you really understand what the policy is?
Jonathan Davis is the Dean of Students at Lyndon State College and is also the Policy 311-A Campus Coordinator, along with Kate Gold.
Davis sent out an email by protocol recently explaining the policy and sat down with The Critic to continue the conversation.
If an incident were to occur on campus, Davis said that a timely notification email would be sent out campus wide.
“Policy 311-A is a Vermont State College wide policy specifically related to taking in complaints and investigating complaints of sexual assault and sexual misconduct,” Davis said. “[The policy] covers domestic violence, dating violence, complaints of sexual assault, and the purpose is to educate the entire campus community, all five colleges, and all the CCV locations across the state.”
The problem, however, is goes beyond a policy.
According to the Crime Statistics from Public Safety, there have been three reported forcible sex offences on campus from 2012 to 2014. Forcible sex offences are defined as instances of rape and fondling.
“Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence on college campuses across the nation,” said Davis. “More often than not, we will not receive a complaint. We know it happens and we won’t get the complaint to take action.”
Davis does not believe that LSC’s problem is worse than any other college campus. However, being aware of unreported cases means that the likelihood of the three cases on the Lyndon State campus, is actually more.
Davis said that he thinks that victims of sexual assault sometimes choose not to speak up, because they feel most at risk of retaliation at that point.
“That’s a very real concern for people,” Davis said. “That’s why we need to educate the community, especially those who are victims of sexual assault to say, ‘It’s not your fault, there is help, we can help you get through this’.”
Davis fears that there are people in our community that are suffering because they haven’t been able to come forward.
Students who are victims of sexual assault can utilize the resources on campus or the organization Umbrella in St. Johnsbury.
“Umbrella was founded in 1976 by a group of women interested in creating a women’s health center in St. Johnsbury, VT,” as described on the Umbrella website. “An area-wide meeting led to the establishment of other activities including a 24-hour rape crisis hotline, support groups, and skill-sharing groups. Several years later, a safe home network was established and discussions with health organizations led to the provision of more comprehensive health services for women. Based on the growth of the agency, the board decided in 1986 to accept federal Victim’s Assistance funds for rape crisis and domestic violence programs.”
The website reads: “As of…2015, Umbrella has a paid staff of 26 full- and part-time employees and has an operating budget of 1.3 million dollars. Umbrella operates four programs: Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention, Kingdom Child Care, supervised visitation through the Family Room and vocational training in the culinary and hospitality fields for women in transition through Cornucopia.”
However, victims are not the only ones who can speak up.
Davis stresses how important it is to share any information you can, even if you weren’t affected directly. He said, “Even if you’re fed a line of false information, let us iron it out.”
“If a student hears anything related to sexual assault or violent crime, they should automatically speak up,” said Davis, “If you’re on campus, you can start with the RA, go to the hall director, or skip it all and go right to public safety or come to the Dean of Students office, or Director of Student Life. Something really needs to be said because it’s your community that’s impacted and it has an impact on your safety and well being.”
Bystander intervention training is something Davis says he hopes to improve throughout the years at Lyndon with the help of Lyndon F.A.I.R..
F.A.I.R. stands for Promoting Fairness, Awareness, Inclusion, and Relationships in Our Community that is a resource on the LSC campus for social justice consultation, advocacy, and activism.
Why is sexual assault such a problem on college campuses?
Davis explains that when you do research about this type of crime on a college campus, typically it involves alcohol; people experience impaired judgement and people are taken advantage of.
It is really about being aware. Davis explains to students, during orientation, that whether they choose to go to a party or illegally drink in their dorm room, they need to be thinking about their own protection; did they go with someone that will make sure they get home safely?
Davis says that education is key, but what about security?
Using Wheelock as an example, “The front door is locked but that’s only as safe as the next student coming. You have a suite key and the weakness point there, is if not all the suite members agree and held each other accountable for keeping it locked, again it’s only as safe as the person who keeps it unlocked,” Davis said.
“I think there is room for discussion there, room for perhaps consideration of more card swipes for those buildings, but what I would hope for from the staff is that there is a conversation encouraging to keep those doors locked,” Davis said. “For your room there is three levels of security, for the showers though, there’s only two. I think that it’s a very legitimate point, and one that we should consider.”
Of the three reported sex offences, all occurred in Residence Halls.