The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul students dissatisfied following sexual assault panel

Following the Take Back the Night Rally, a panel discussion on DePaul’s sexual assault polices and producers brought a large crowd with many questions from frustrated and vocal students.

“I’m not very happy with (the panel’s outcome),” DePaul senior Timothy Bradford said. “I think it was more of a PR presentation of how the university would like to show itself versus it being open to an understanding of how the students felt, what actually climate was in regards to their safety.”

Other students walked away from the panel with similar feelings.

“It was disappointing,” DePaul student Hannah Utain-Evans said. “I wasn’t expecting much from them … they were there to say the right things.”

SGA President Casey Clemmons said he thought the panel was “productive”and that “the three panelists provided a lot of information and many students were able to ask questions.”

The discussion, hosted by SGA, was one of their efforts to facilitate sexual assault and violence discussion on campus. More than 100 students attended, compared to about 35 students who attended last year’s discussion. Bob Wachowski, public safety director; Rima Shah, sexual health and violence prevention coordinator; and Ellen Herion Fingado, assistant dean of students, spoke on the panel. 

“We basically use a student-centric empowerment approach, which means we provide the survivor with the different resource options on and off-campus,” Shah said. “But we leave it to the survivor then to choose what option they prefer and feel comfortable doing.”

Shah’s office has an “open door policy” where she provides a “safe space” for student to talk to her at any point. She said she talks to students about their reporting options, counseling options medical attention and more. The Dean of Students Office can provide academic support as well as help students through the university judicial process and in combination with criminal or civil processes. 

However, several students raised questions regarding processes and policies at DePaul.

“I was a little unclear on what DePaul’s policy on dealing with people who commit sexual violence because … if you can be expelled for copying a term paper why would you be suspended for raping someone?” one student asked.

Fingado responded and said that when sexual assault or violence cases come to their office “suspension and dismissal is typically on the table” but that she couldn’t “speak to specific cases.”

The panelists stressed the “care and support” that DePaul provides throughout most of their answers, while maintaining that they can only provide help to victims and survivors that come forward.

“I think they really emphasized the amount of care and support (…) that they provide to sexual assault victims, and victims of all kinds of sexual violence,” DePaul senior Stacey Bear said. “I don’t think they emphasized enough what they could do differently, what they can change, and what needs to be continued to be talked about.”

Even though the panel was extended 15 minutes, it ended abruptly when someone from the audience asked a question about the athletic department. 

“If the athletic department didn’t do something wrong, why did the person who was supposed to come back out?”

DePaul Athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto was scheduled as SGA’s weekly speaker at the regular SGA meeting separate from the panel. Expecting that the panel would run long, SGA postponed Ponsetto’s visit for a future date, Clemmons said.

Fingado responded, “We can’t comment on specific cases, and I believe Casey, we are way over our time.”

Managing Editor Courtney Jacquin contributed to this report.

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