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'Long overdue': SGA administration addresses sexual assault for first time

SGA launches a "Stamp Out Aggression" campaign to combat sexual assault


Senate Leader Caroline Murray speaks at an SGA meeting Nov. 12 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium. 

What has been left unsaid by previous administrations was addressed Nov. 12 by Central Michigan University's Student Government Association. The organization,  for the first time in its history, took a stand against sexual assault.

SGA invited graduate student Rachel Wilson to share her story about surviving sexual assault, spread awareness on the issue and advocate for looking out for one another. 

"Consent is not enough, it should be a given," Wilson said. "CMU lacks a community of peers that looks out for one another and holds each other accountable."

Wilson asserted that former administrative members of SGA failed the student body in choosing not to address the university about charges brought forward against Ian Elliott, who served as SGA president from August to December of 2016. 

Elliott resigned as President on Dec. 5, 2016. SGA published on social media that he resigned “due to personal reasons and opportunities.”

Elliott was originally charged with two felony counts of sexual misconduct in the third degree and one felony count of assault with attempt to penetrate. The incident happened on Sept. 1, 2016, where Elliott allegedly sexually assaulted Wilson. 

"Those in active roles in SGA during this time were aware of accusations brought against a student, and chose to say nothing," Wilson said. 

Previous SGA administrations had discussed the possibility of making a statement condemning sexual assault at that time, but ultimately voted against doing so, said SGA Vice President Lyndi Rose.

"Nobody (in SGA) was protecting (Elliott)," she said. "The decision was based on the fact that there were only charges in place against him, and there hadn't been a verdict yet. They were trying to remain unbiased in the situation."

After Wilson’s story was shared by Central Michigan Life, SGA President Jake Hendricks and Rose decided it was time to finally address the issue. 

Wilson stated that it took “tremendous bravery” for SGA to admit what former administrations could have done differently.

"The current members of SGA were brave enough to admit the faults of previous members, and are working towards making right what others wronged," Wilson said. "This level of honesty and transparency is what allows for growth to occur."

Aside from stating that addressing sexual assault was “long overdue within this organization,” SGA did not offer comment on Elliott or the decisions made by former administrations in the Nov. 12 address. 

Stamp Out Aggression

Senate Leader Caroline Murray announced the launch of SGA’s campaign, “Stamp Out Aggression,” that will begin Nov. 12 and continue into 2019. 

The campaign aims to promote resources available on campus -- such as SAPA, OCRIE and the CMU Counseling Center -- as well as educate students on how to have "tough conversations" about sexual aggression. 

Murray explained that this campaign will be SGA's "action piece" against sexual assault. The organization will push to promote discussions and raise awareness of resources available on campus. Until the end of this semester, SGA will launch its education advocacy efforts, which will take place via social media. 

"We want to flood our social media with resources," Murray said. SGA will post about campus safety and sexual aggression education. 

In January 2019, a "Bystander Dialogue" event will take place to promote discussion on how to intervene in situations of sexual aggression and how to not be a bystander. More details will come later in the year as the event is finalized. 

The campaign will culminate with SGA's "Pledge Against Sexual Aggression" that will take place in February 2019. The pledge asks for voices of those on the campus of CMU to condemn sexual aggression. 

"Spread the word, have the tough conversations with people, and take the pledge in February," Murray urged. 

SGA's address was part of a campus-wide effort condemning sexual assault that has gained momentum this year.

“(Sexual assault) is something that happens right here on out campus,” Rose said. “We ask that you stand with SGA when we say that the Student Government Association does not condone sexual assault.”

In an open letter to CMU, President Robert O. Davies said he recently appointed a Presidential Title IX Advisory Board that will aim to ensure transparency and provide education and support services. 

The Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity has introduced the #ConsentIsCentral campaign and added staff to process complaints more quickly and expand its services.

"One voice can create a ripple, but voices raised in numbers can create waves," Wilson said. "We are all a part of this, whether our lives have been affected by sexual assault or not. We either support this cause and take action, or we choose to do nothing."