There have been over 60 students involved in sexual harassment incidents since the beginning of the school year, with each reported episode involving about 10 students, either directly or indirectly. Directly involved students are those personally engaged in either perpetuating the act or being the victim of sexual harassment. Students indirectly involved are those that witnessed the incident. Incidents of sexual harassment have increased over the past few years, with this year having the highest number reported. These occurrences involve not only male-to-female, but also male-to-male and female-to-female.“I believe that our generation has allowed and perpetuated a culture that leaves too much room for sexual joking and conversation . . . a gross desensitization to the fact that this kind of thinking and behavior is damaging to ourselves and our peers,” senior Anika Wiebe said. “Don’t get me wrong– I fall into that kind of casual thinking too, but I’m becoming more aware of how it’s destroying our society.”
Sexual harassment, as described in the Student Handbook, includes requests for sexual favors, conversations containing sexual comments, and other unwelcome sexual advances. Tim Young, Director of Resident Life, believes harassment on campus is more than that.
“In the residence halls, public nudity, jokes of a sexual nature, staring at another person, commenting on a person’s body- all can be harassing behavior,” Young said.
Although students receive cursory sexual harassment training in mandatory floor meetings, and incoming students this year also received it in Frontline, harassing behavior is often misunderstood.
“This year there has been a variety of incidents of sexual harassment on campus and in almost every case, the motivation of the student engaging in the harassing behavior was not malicious,” Young said. “However, intent is not always important- how another student receives the behavior and the negative impact it has on the community is what is most important.”
Many people come from different backgrounds where they may have experienced a very serious issue in the past. Harassing behavior is often a trigger which encourages that person to relive those experiences and emotions, which, according to Young, is sometimes the case at Vanguard.
If students are being sexually harassed or feel uncomfortable, it is important that they contact a Resident Life staff member or RA directly. All reports must be initiated by a student. This report by a student is followed up with an initial interview by the staff member contacted and one other person. In this interview, the staff members give the student the option to press charges, speak with Campus Safety, or to get in touch with the local Costa Mesa Police Department.
The accused student, if found to have violated the sexual harassment policy, must undergo some type of disciplinary sanction.
When it comes to disciplinary actions in minor cases, a remediation program is immediately put into effect. This includes sexual harassment training, which involves demonstration of an understanding of how the behavior was wrong and how it needs to change. This is followed by a process of reconciliation with the victim.
“For more serious or irresolvable situations, suspension and expulsion are very real possibilities,” Young said.
Although no incidents have required such strong disciplinary action, Resident Life has a system put into place and is ready to handle any more reports that come their way. Campus Safety is also available to any student with a more physical case in regards to sexual harassment, including any form of attempted or perpetrated instances of sexual assault.
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