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SMC appoints sexual assault task force members

| Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TaskForceEric Richelsen | The Observer

Last Wednesday, the Saint Mary’s faculty selected members for President Carol Ann Mooney’s task force on sexual assault. Mooney officially announced the creation of the task force over the summer after a screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” on April 9 spurred dialogue on the issue of sexual assault on campus.

In a letter sent Sept. 8 to Saint Mary’s campus community, Mooney said the task force is comprised of Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff, and it will announce its recommendations in May. Staff members include counselor Gina Christiana, Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Johnson, Assistant Director of Alumnae Relations Shay Jolly, College counsel Rich Nugent and Director of Campus Ministry Regina Wilson. Students on the task force include sophomore Lydia Lorenc, juniors Caylin McCallick, Kayla Gaughan, Julianne Olivieri and senior Bri O’Brien.

Faculty members include Bettina Spencer, associate professor of psychology, librarian Ula Gaha and Jamie Wagman, assistant professor of history and gender and women’s studies.

Mooney wrote in the letter,“I am most appreciative of the willingness of so many to participate in this important work and thank them in advance for their service. Minutes of the task force’s meetings will be posted on the college’s portal — [which is] expected to ‘go live’ on October 6.”

Mooney, who will serve as chair of the committee, said the task force will address three issues: reducing and eliminating sexual assault and sexual violence against students, improving the College’s procedures for handling claims of sexual assault and sexual violence and providing better support for students who have survived some form of sexual violence.

Gaughan said she is honored to be on the task force and hopes her participation will contribute to a reform of the current system.

“Being on the task force means I have an opportunity to voice students opinions, concerns and thoughts about sexual assault here at Saint Mary’s,” Gaughan said.“This task force is important to Saint Mary’s because sexual assault is an epidemic on our campus and college campuses around the United States.”

The task force is a step in the right direction for the College, Gaughan said.

“‘The Hunting Ground’ illustrated how the current system does not serve the student body or survivors. The task force gives us an opportunity make progress in prevention, policy and procedure.”


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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

Contact Haleigh
  • Jessica Lopez

    Great article, Haleigh! Thank you for sharing with the public these members of the task force. What would be even more interesting to know are the professors who were offered a position on the task force but denied it and their reasons for doing so. From what I understand those who declined a position did so because they refused to contribute to what some recognize as an action taken by the administration to temporarily appease those pressuring the school for answers and results.

    I’d also be interested in knowing why she denied a place on the task force for Saint Mary’s alumnae whose experiences with the college and overall wisdom could aid them in addressing the three issues you mentioned above.

    I hope this task force is more than what it appears to be and am excited to work with the students who I know will be doing the most good for their school.

  • Jean Osberger

    I agree with Jessica. As an alumna, I am happy to see any step in the right direction, but am not sure if this is it. I hope I am wrong in being skeptical of this task force. I strongly respect my school and its faculty, but how can this task force accomplish anything different with the President of the college as its head? That is a strong conflict of interest.

    I do not intend disrespect toward President Mooney, but I do have questions.
    What checks and balances exist in this task force?
    Are there set goals for the task force to enact change?

    Hopefully, more of this will come to light once the task force meets. I implore its members to challenge each other and the status quo. Historically, the SMC student body is not one to protest, but I encourage students to continue looking for change. Do not stop until you get it!

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