Rally celebrates shift in assault policy
Chris Miller, The Oklahoma Daily
A proposed sit-in by a student organization in the building housing OU President David Boren’s office became a celebration on the North Oval on Wednesday after administrators agreed to change the university’s sexual-assault policies.
OU students gathered at noon Wednesday outside Evans Hall to celebrate an increase in the statute of limitations for student-filed claims of sexual assault and the prospect of increased campus education regarding the issue.
“We are celebrating the changes that apparently [President] Boren is going to be implementing: the one year statute of limitations from the 30 days, the possibility of mandatory sexual assault education for freshmen and then OUPD being more knowledgeable on the policies they’re supposed to be enforcing,” said Jordan Ward, social sciences and women’s and gender studies sophomore.
Event attendees said Ward was largely responsible for the change in policy after she reported being raped at a January 2010 fraternity party in a Feb. 21 Daily column. Following the column, Ward said she submitted a proposal to the university administration March 23 outlining possible revisions to OU’s sexual-assault policies, including an increase in the statute of limitations for reporting assaults and an effort to improve on-campus education regarding the issue.
President Boren thanked Ward for her efforts when he approached rally attendees later in the day to discuss the proposed changes.
Without Ward’s efforts and proposal, changes to the university’s sexual-assault policy likely would not have been made, Boren said.
“Really I appreciate it, because really it was something we were asleep at the switch about, to be honest with you,” Boren said. “We’re all in agreement; it’s simply something I wasn’t aware about ... You all got it on the agenda, got it on the radar screen, and it wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”
Wednesday’s rally was originally conceived as a sit-in in Evans Hall, until university spokesman Chris Shilling contacted Ward on Tuesday and presented changes to the university’s sexual-assault policies, Sandra Criswell, women’s and gender studies and English senior said.
“We had originally discussed doing a sit-in, and we had about 50 people sign up to do that, and whenever we found out that they were actually going to implement the changes we had asked for — at least the major ones — the sit-in seemed redundant,” Criswell said. “We wanted to still be able to show support for Jordan [Ward], though … and show the administration this is something students do care about.”
At the gathering Wednesday, students and faculty — including victims of sexual assault — gathered while holding hand-made signs such as “Consent is Sexy,” “Someone’s 30 days starts today” and “Red Tape won’t cover up rape.”
Ward began the rally with a megaphone to thank the crowd for their attendance and outline her proposal to the administration.
“It’s hard to talk about out loud, hard to understand,” Ward said, referencing her own experience. “Together we can make changes.”
Matt Bruenig, philosophy senior and Daily columnist, and Criswell also addressed those in attendance.
“A lot of people see how things are on campus and wonder about the avenues for change … ,” Bruenig said. “If you go out and do direct-action protests, you can change things.”
Following Ward, Bruenig and Criswell, rally attendees took turns using the megaphone to tell stories of their experiences with sexual assault and the toll it can take on victims.
At 1 p.m., Ward left the North Oval to meet with Student Affairs Vice President Clarke Stroud, Student Affairs Associate Vice President Susan Sasso and Student Conduct Office Director Andrea Kulsrud.
Ward’s March 23 proposal to university administrators was used as the framework for the meeting, which Stroud said he felt went well.
When Ward returned to the North Oval, she said the meeting met her expectations.
When Boren approached the rally, he spoke with attendees about the changes that had just been discussed by Ward, Stroud, Sasso and Kulsrud in their meeting.
“We’re talking about trying a mandatory education program,” Boren said. “We have the mandatory alcohol education program, and the two are often related, so we’ll tie them together.”
A committee will be put into place this summer to discuss the nature of the training program, Boren said.
“I’d like to get the [committee] together so that when school starts again in the fall we’ll be able to put the comprehensive policy in place,” Boren said. “I’m sure the [OU] Regents will adopt it just as soon as we get it to them.”
Boren expects to increase the statute of limitations on the reporting of sexual assault to a year at the next meeting of the OU Regents on May 12 and 13, he said.
STATUE OF LIMITATIONS FOR RAPE FOR OU, STATE
» OU — 30 days (President David Boren is proposing changing this to one year)
» Oklahoma — 12 years
— Sources: OU Student Code, Oklahoma State Statutes