President Mearns releases statement on sexual assault
On Tuesday, President Geoffrey S. Mearns released a statement on Twitter regarding the number of sexual assaults the university has reported this semester.
The statement reads:
"Over the past few weeks, there have been several reports of sexual assault on or near campus. I know that behind each report is a person who deserves our support.
The issue of sexual misconduct on university campuses is not just a professional matter. For me, and for many of you, it’s also a very personal concern. Three of my four daughters presently live in a residence hall on a university campus, and in January, my son will resume living in a residence hall at the University of Virginia. I have entrusted the safety of my children to the administration, the faculty, and the staff of those institutions. And I expect them to honor that trust.
Here, at Ball State University, we are committed to providing a safe campus for all members of our community. That commitment includes doing all that we can to prevent sexual misconduct.
The ultimate objective ... is to eliminate sexual violence and sexual misconduct on our campus. That’s an ambitious goal. But that must be our collective aspiration. Anything less is not acceptable.
As we continue to work toward achieving that goal, however, our University must continue to investigate and adjudicate complaints of sexual misconduct. The Department of Education recently rescinded previously issued guidelines for these processes. Notwithstanding the DOE’s decision, our University will continue to follow our current policies and procedures, which were developed in compliance with the DOE guidelines that were promulgated under the previous administration. It is my hope that any future DOE guidance will improve and enhance our efforts to create a safe campus for all students, staff, faculty, and our visitors.
Through the collective efforts of many people here at Ball State, we provide services, resources and policies that support students affected by sexual misconduct. These resources include an on-campus victim advocate and counseling, both of which are confidential services available to all members of the campus community, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Our Ball State Police and Title IX office also provide response to complaints.
If you or someone you know has been victimized, please use our services. Hearing about these recent reports may be unsettling, but they may indicate that our students feel confident in the support they receive when they come forward.
Campus safety is a collective commitment. It is a partnership involving all members of our University community. All of us must work together to create a safe campus. I will continue to be an active member of this vitally important effort.
Thank you for your support and engagement.
Geoffrey S. Mearns"
Mearns advised students to participate in the various programs that Ball State offers to help promote the prevention of sexual assault. The programs include:
- Think About It: Before classes begin in August, all new students must complete an online course that addresses safe social habits and inappropriate aggressor behavior. This program also includes effective strategies for bystander intervention.
- Red Zone: During the first six weeks of the Fall semester, our Office of Health, Alcohol, and Drug Education, in partnership with our Office of Victim Services, make presentations to students in residence halls, classrooms, and student organizations about sexual assault prevention, partying smart, and communicating consent.
- Greek Peer Advocates: More than 140 students have trained, or are in training, to become Greek Peer Advocates. This training program prepares students for bystander intervention in order to prevent sexual assault in our fraternities and sororities.
- Step In. Speak Up.: Members of this student organization educate their peers, as well as faculty and staff, about sexual violence and sexual misconduct. As part of that effort, our University has created a free mobile app that provides information and telephone numbers to call if you or someone you know has been a victim of or has witnessed a sexual assault. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to download it.
Since August, the university has sent out five emails regarding sexual assault. The five reports come as the university is under federal investigation for the mishandling of a sexual assault that occurred during the 2016-17 academic year.
However, since August, 11 cases have been reported both on and off campus.
For the past week, students have called Mearns to release a statement regarding the sexual assaults on and off campus.
In response to the reported assaults and Betsy DeVos's rescinding Obama-era guidelines on on-campus sexual assault, a petition was published directed toward university officials. The petition has 64 supporters as of Tuesday and reads:
"Recently, Ball State University has seen a spike in reports of sexual assault that happen to be centered around Fraternity Row. We're asking the University Officials to take action against these organizations and treating sexual assault on our campus as an eminent threat. We are asking that in line with heavier police patrols on Fraternity Row that these organizations are held accountable for the accusations against them and they are suspended from holding events in their houses until justice is served to these survivors (this is specifically geared toward those fraternity houses that are in the 1100 block of Riverside Ave.) .
We are also asking, with the recent political climate surrounding Title IX, that Ball State University stands by those policies and protects all students no matter the governmental decision. We're asking that the University abides by Title IX, giving these survivors, in the present and the future, the protection they are entitled to."
In addition to the petition, students have taken to Twitter to call the university to take action.