Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon will speak to select groups of students and administrators in closed meetings this morning at Cheadle Hall, as a part of a series of campus tours focused on combating sexual assault.
UCSB is among 11 institutions across the nation to be visited by Department of Education officials. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, officials will discuss preventative practices and survivor support with students, local law enforcement and campus administration. Lhamon will be meeting with Associated Students leaders and student activists and separately with campus administrators working in sexual assault programs on campus. Following the meetings, Lhamon will also hold a media availability at noon at Mosher Alumni House.
The visit will, in part, be addressing the violent incidents of sexual assault that occurred in Isla Vista back in February. UCSB will be one of the institutions to host the Department of Education officials since the University received the “Grant to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program,” provided by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
According to information provided by the Department of Justice, the grant money will be used to adopt policies that recognize the severity of violence against women by creating victim service programs focused on the safety of the survivor. The grant requires UCSB to coordinate a community response to violence against women, establish a mandatory prevention and education program, train all law enforcement on proper survivor assistance and establish training programs for members of campus disciplinary boards.
Jill Dunlap, director of UCSB Campus Advocacy Resources and Education, or CARE, said she feels excited that UCSB was chosen to be part of the campus tour since it offers a chance for CARE and similar programs to show their work to Lhamon and discuss ways to improve these efforts.
“It is a great opportunity for the campus to highlight the solid prevention education and response efforts that UCSB works hard to develop and maintain,” Dunlap said in an email. “Having an opportunity to showcase the work that the CARE Program does on campus for representatives from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education is something we are excited to be able to do.”
According to Dunlap, sexual assaults occur on every college campus, and the issue is one that has captured national attention. In light of the February assaults in Isla Vista, Dunlap said the campus tour should have a positive impact on UCSB.
“We are proud to have been chosen as one of the campus site visits for this tour because it is an indication that, in spite of very tragic assaults like the one that took place this quarter, UCSB provides comprehensive advocacy and support services for survivors of interpersonal violence,” Dunlap said.
In addition, Dunlap said the campus is “very fortunate” to have “outstanding student activists” who responded immediately to recent incidents of assault by planning rallies and making other efforts to show solidarity with survivors.
UC Office of the President Spokesperson Brooke Converse said she hopes Lhamon’s visit will mobilize more people at UCSB address the ongoing issue of sexual assault.
“We care deeply about the issue of sexual assault and how it impacts the campus community,” Converse said in an email. “We encourage any efforts to increase awareness. There is no way for us to know what the impacts could be on campus, but we hope that it will increase awareness at UC Santa Barbara.”
Second-year feminist studies major Marina Campbell, also a member of A.S. organization Take Back the Night, said the government is starting to recognize how major of a problem sexual assault is on college campuses. Campbell said she feels hopeful Lhamon’s visit will put more emphasis on sexual assault, especially since it is a highly unreported crime.
“If the national government brings more attention to the issue, then it should make people pay more attention to what is going on,” Campbell said.
Campbell also said while important campus organizations such as Take Back the Night and VOX Voices for Planned Parenthood exist to provide education on issues such as sexual harassment, a fair number of people still do not know about these groups or the events they provide. As such, Campbell said more action should be taken against rape culture.
“I think that we have some good programs on campus and good events … but more people need to know about them,” Campbell said. “Although we currently have good resources, there is always room for improvement. We can always do more, and right now we need to do more.”
A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Wednesday, April 30, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
[Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Lhamon will be speaking to UCSB today at Mosher Alumni House. That is incorrect, Lhamon will be speaking in closed meetings with students groups and administrators at Cheadle Hall and will hold a media briefing at Mosher Alumni House at noon]