A panel of university administrators and law enforcement officials addressed high priority issues affecting safety and security on campus, including alcohol, residence hall security and sexual assault, at the Safety and Security Forum Thursday night in Jack Morton Auditorium.
The forum— which was live streamed on the Office of Safety and Security website —was moderated by Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president for safety and security. The panelists also fielded GW community members’ questions, which were submitted online and by the audience.
The panelists included Kevin Hay, chief of the GW Police Department; Pat Burke, assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department; Sgt. Michael Lawrence of the Metropolitan Police Department; George Nunez, director of emergency management; William Flint, director of health and safety; Peter Konwerski, senior associate provost and dean of student affairs; Tara Pereira, director of campus inclusion initiatives and deputy Title IX coordinator; and Alexis Janda, associate director for the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education (CADE).
Chief Hay began the forum by outlining of the expanded efforts of the GW Police Department to increase security as needed in residence halls.
In addition to the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) coverage, regular police patrols, and swipe-card technology that exists in all residence halls, GWPD has increased its presence at the entrances of seven residence halls based on an analysis of where the most incidents occur.. Security guards, community service aides and police officers will check GWorld cards and speak with visitors as they enter these residence halls.
Chief Hay said GW house staff has become more proactive in reporting incidents to the GW Police Department.
“We have a more of a team effort going than in years past, and it’s working quite well,” he said.
Residence halls are communities, said Dr. Konwerski, and students are encouraged to communicate with GW house staff when they feel unsafe.
“The more of us who are paying attention to what’s happening, the higher probability that we are all going to be safer,” he said.
The panelists then discussed the university’s efforts to combat sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus. GWPD received reports of several incidents occurring in the first few days of the fall semester.
Mr. Darnell said all of the reported incidents have been acquaintance based, meaning the victim knew the alleged perpetrator. He also noted that alcohol can affect a person’s ability to provide consent, and it has been a consistent contributing factor in many of the reported incidents on campus.
“It really boils down to an understanding of what is consent and what is not,” said Mr. Darnell. “An individual has to affirmatively consent to a sexual encounter. If a person has consumed some amount of alcohol or drugs, and they do not have the ability to consent and something occurs, the other party potentially could have committed a crime.”
The GW Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department are collaborating to educate students about the laws pertaining to sexual assaults and sexual violence, as well as alcohol.
Assistant Chief Burke noted that citywide, the majority of reported sexual assaults involving individuals under the age of 21 also involved alcohol, and those with alcohol in their system have a greater likelihood of being victims of first-degree sexual abuse. He also noted that there are lower arrest rates when alcohol is involved because victims are often unable to identify the perpetrator or unable to remember the incident.
The police departments have reached out to local bars and nightclubs to encourage staff to be on the lookout for inappropriate behavior, and to encourage patrons to keep an eye on their drinks.
The GW Police Department has also collaborated with partners in GW’s Office of Emergency Management to provide educational materials to students about how to respond to emergencies, including alcohol poisoning, and who to call on campus to get help. The materials also educate the public about the penalties surrounding underage drinking and the use of false identification in the District of Columbia.
Chief Hay announced that GW’s Emergency Medical Response Group, EMeRG, recently received a new ambulance to service the Mount Vernon Campus.
Panelists also outlined the resources available to GW students who are victims of a sexual crime or need assistance with substance abuse.
Ms. Janda said that every freshman enrolls in a CADE course called MyStudentBody, which covers information on alcohol, drugs and sexual violence, before they arrive on campus; and students who want to serve alcohol at a student organization event must enroll in the Responsible Alcohol Management (RAM) certification workshop. The university recently held Be Wiser Day, which included creative programming and a Be Wiser Pledge to encourage students to make better decisions about alcohol.
CADE also collaborates with GW’s Impact on Substance Education (GWise) and GW Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) on programming about sexual assault and sexual violence.
“My goal with CADE is that we are truly a resource center, where students feel comfortable walking in to ask a question,” said Ms. Janda. “Oftentimes they are going trial by error or on what they see on TV, so we are working with providing them with education so they can make more informed decisions.”
Ms. Pereira explained her new role in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which includes working with individuals who have experienced sexual harassment, assault and violence.
The university recently released interim sexual harassment and sexual violence policy and procedures. The policy expanded and clarified language on equitable timeframes, the disciplinary process and the standard of proof, for cases that go through the judicial process.
Ms. Pereira said the office, in collaboration with University Human Resources and the Division of Student Affairs, is creating a website called Haven that will be a “one-stop shop” for GW resources and research on sexual assault and sexual violence, as well as information about off-campus resources and referrals.
Ms. Pereira said the Office for Diversity and Inclusion will also collaborate with CADE to increase bystander intervention programming in relation to alcohol and drugs and increase campus outreach to “put a face on the issue” and encourage incident reporting.
“[GW] is a place just like anywhere else in the world, and we want people to report more so that the university can virtually wrap our arms around them and provide them with the resources and support that they need,” she said.
The university is also addressing sexual assault in the Greek community. Mr. Darnell; Erin Harpine, coordinator of victims services and educational initiatives in the GW Police Department; and staff from the Division of Student Affairs recently met with Greek leaders to define consent and outline the university’s code of conduct and sexual misconduct policies.
“The first thing we want to do is to help the victims, it’s our number one priority,” said Mr. Darnell. “We are committed to providing as much education on this issue as we can.”
The panelists also outlined the ramifications of using fake IDs, noise complaints in Foggy Bottom and the process of sending out GW crime alerts.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Konwerski urged students to seek help and guidance when they feel unsafe or an incident has occurred, and said the university will not shy away from communicating about “difficult issues.”
“When questions come up and when you’re posed with a situation, we want you to seek help and to know that resources are here,” he said. “Our responsibility and role is to support you in being successful students and to complete your degrees, and that is our number one mission.”