A resolution calling for Student Senate to assemble an ad hoc committee to review the state of sexual violence at the University of Kansas passed through Senate’s University Affairs Committee Wednesday night.
Grant Daily, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, authored the resolution.
Daily introduced legislation in December 2019 asking Chancellor Douglas Girod to reinstate a task force to investigate sexual assault on campus in response to high national rates of sexual assault for women, and a lack of transparency in how the University handles sexual violence.
The Office of the Chancellor first received the legislation last week, Daily said, although he introduced the legislation nearly two months ago.
“I have less than a year and a half left here with the University of Kansas,” Daily said. “These problems were here before I got here, and they’re going to be here far after I leave. Something has to be done.”
After reviewing the legislation, Girod said he will not reopen a task force to investigate sexual assault, citing different initiatives the University has taken to prevent and respond to sexual assault.
In the next coming days, Daily said he will consider whether he will try to pass the resolution to create an ad hoc committee or not after Girod’s response.
Chancellor Douglas Girod announced that he will not be reviving a task force to investigate sexual assault on campus.
Daily said if the legislation passes, the ad hoc committee will conduct research, reach out to student groups on campus and confer with campus partners including the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center to review the state of sexual violence afflicting students.
The ad hoc committee, which will be open to all University members, will address the issue of sexual violence, the University’s lack of transparency in handling it, the reporting process, the response process and the way it’s discussed, Daily said.
Daily’s resolution, however, did not pass without debate. Some University Affairs committee members said they worry data needed by the ad hoc committee will be restricted by HIPAA confidentiality, while others said the bill confuses Student Senate’s roles for the University’s roles.
University Affairs Associate Leena Abdelmoity said she worries the ad hoc committee might prevent the University from addressing the issue of sexual violence on campus and cause students to report to the committee instead of the University.
“My fear is that this ad hoc could actually hurt victims of sexual violence because it could be counteracting something a little bit more [helpful],” Abdelmoity said. “By having this, it might have the University say, ‘OK well there’s already this ad hoc committee,’ and think that there’s already these students doing something.”
Though Daily said committee members’ concerns were valid, they don’t outweigh the problem of sexual violence on campus.
“The fact of the matter is that [sexual assault] is a problem that affects a very large portion of students,” Daily said. “Our response up to this point has been near silence. I don’t think that’s acceptable. I think we need to do something — anything.”
Former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little created a sexual assault task force in September 2014 to review the University’s policies and procedures in cases of sexual assault, which released a final report of 27 recommendations.
Daily said he hopes the ad-hoc committee will research the University’s compliance with these recommendations and release recommendations of its own.
The resolution also notes that if Girod does establish a task force on sexual violence as originally requested, then the ad hoc committee will dissolve to allow the task force to take the lead.
“In my opinion, Student Senate is a place for all students to come together,” Daily said. “It’s a place for us to address our issues, and I think this is us running into one of the most glaring issues the University has and by us stepping away from it right now, it [would be] kind of sad.”
The resolution will go through full Senate Wednesday, Feb. 26.
—Edited by Brianna Wessling