Earlier this month, Barnard was listed along with 93 other colleges and universities on a list of institutions undergoing federal investigation for their handling of sexual violence reports. As part of a continuing response, SGA held an open forum today and Bwogger Henry Litwhiler attended.
In response to the investigation, Barnard SGA organized a community discussion on Title IX compliance. Billed as a chance for Barnard students to provide feedback and ask questions about the college’s response, the focus group featured Barnard Assistant Dean for Equity Amy Zavadil and SGA’s Vice President for Student Government Sarah Shuster and Representative for Campus Policy Sienna Walker.
The hour-long session attracted a total of six attendees from Barnard’s student body. It was suggested that winter storm Juno had hampered efforts to get the word out, but since there was room for only a few more students in the conference room, expectations must not have been high. There was consensus towards the end of the meeting that another focus group would be in order, as turnout at previous events had been much better.
Zavadil fielded questions from students at the table, offering at times some of her own. Her emphasis, she explained, was on policy changes that could be brought about at Barnard to supplement efforts already underway at Columbia’s Sexual Violence Response.
The first point raised by a student was that, contrary to a provision of Title IX prohibiting colleges from charging students for services related to an assault on campus, Barnard caps sessions at the Furman Counseling Center at eight per semester, forcing survivors to seek expensive off-campus services instead. Zavadil countered that Furman is intended to serve students’ short-term needs and that assistance is provided to help students transition into long-term therapy. She admitted, however, that there should be more flexibility and that further discussion is warranted on the issue.