Students Vote Yes on Sexual Assault Education and Divestment Referenda

George Washington University administrators say they will review student feedback.

March 27, 2015

By Brittney Dunkins

George Washington University students voted Wednesday and Thursday in favor of two referenda on the 2015 student body elections ballot, one that supports an education session on sexual violence for incoming students and one that calls for the university to divest from firms that “extract and refine” fossil fuels.

The referenda will be referred to university administration for review but do not affect current university policies.

Referendum No. 1—which asked students whether they support a stand-alone Colonial Inauguration session on sexual violence education—was approved with 92 percent of the vote, according to the GW Joint Elections Committee (JEC).

Referendum No. 2—which calls for the Board of Trustees to disclose university investment information and to divest from firms that “extract and refine” fossil fuels—was supported by nearly 72 percent of the students who voted.

 A record 5,456 votes were cast in the election, according to the JEC.

The referenda were added to the ballot following Student Association Senate approval last month.

Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said that the university would continue to educate students and parents about GW policies regarding sexual assault and Title IX.

“Comprehensive and multifaceted training and education programs focusing on sexual assault prevention have and will continue to be offered at the upcoming Colonial Inauguration orientation program and in the upcoming academic year,” Dr. Konwerski said. “Before classes start this fall, all incoming undergraduate and graduate students also will be expected to complete an online module on sexual assault prevention.”

Dr. Reed said that the university is purchasing the online module to raise awareness and give students information about sexual assault prevention and tools to help prevent incidents. The module, which will be selected with assistance from the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, also will outline resources available for survivors and articulate GW policies for complaint resolutions.

In response to the divestment referendum, Director of the Office of Sustainability Meghan Chapple said that the Office of Sustainability welcomes student input on GW’s practices as the university pursues a sustainable investment strategy. 

“We will continue to work with our colleagues in GW's investment area to incorporate sustainable practices into our investment decisions,” Ms. Chapple said.