The Graduate and Professional Student Association is expressing concern over the proposal for an on-campus rape crisis center and its inclusion of graduate students due to their complex relationship with the University.
According to Nicole Mayberry, GPSA president, and Renuka Vemuri, president of Undergraduate Student Government Downtown, the Council of Presidents withheld mention of the proposal for a Campus Assault Advocacy, Resources and Education Center in its 2021-2022 priorities because of concerns brought up by GPSA's assembly and graduate students.
Additionally, GPSA's assembly has not passed legislation in support of the CAARE Center proposal, despite being listed as a supporting organization on the list of endorsements created by Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault, the group that authored the proposal.
Jasmine Lester, an ASU alumna and founding director of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault said in an email the organization confused a University-wide Senate Resolution from the Undergraduate Student Government Senates for an endorsement from GPSA as well. As of Wednesday, GPSA no longer appears on the list of official endorsements.
The CAARE Center proposal was presented to the University in January 2021. The USG University-wide senate passed its supporting resolution on Feb. 12, 2021.
Mayberry, a graduate student studying human and social dimensions of science and technology, said graduate and professional students are concerned their tendency to act in multiple roles at the University creates conflicts of interest surrounding an on-campus rape crisis center.
In an email, Mayberry said GPSA had not endorsed or created legislation relating to the CAARE Center. Because many assembly members are new and unfamiliar with GPSA's organization, Mayberry said she didn't feel comfortable saying the group as a whole endorsed it.
"A lot of our students are often teachers or TAs, or in positions where they have to be mandatory reporters, so if they saw someone going into the center that was maybe a student in their class, it does get tricky," Mayberry said. "Do they have to report that to the University, or how would they deal with those things?"
The University's mandatory reporting policy states any employee who is "informed of or has a reasonable basis to believe that sexual harassment ... has occurred" is required to report all information to the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities, the Title IX Coordinator or the Dean of Students Office. Failure to do so could result in disciplinary action.
It's unclear what a "reasonable basis" for reporting is defined as, making it difficult for graduate teaching assistants to understand what would be required of them as mandatory reporters.
Lester said advocates at the CAARE Center will be available to educate ASU employees on their responsibilities as mandatory reporters.
"If a graduate student or other staff member witnesses or experiences sexual misconduct, they could meet with a CAARE advocate to learn about their mandatory reporting duties as well as any mental health or other accommodations they may need," Lester wrote in an email.
Advocates at the CAARE Center would provide confidential services, meaning if a student were to come to them to disclose an incident, they could not report it to the University unless directed to by the student. However, staff and faculty like graduate TAs would still be required to report any incident brought to their attention under ASU's mandatory reporting policy.
Additionally, because graduate students consider the University their place of employment, Mayberry said there's concern graduate students won't feel safe or comfortable enough to utilize an on-campus resource.
"We're concerned that students might not want to go there for fear of being shamed," Mayberry said.
Vemuri, a senior studying medical studies, said the Council of Presidents wants to support the CAARE Center proposal but did not include it in its priorities because of issues raised by GPSA.
"The CAARE Center isn't explicitly named in our priorities to account for the complexity of our constituencies," Vemuri said. "We are, however, trying to meet the needs expressed in the CAARE Center proposal as best as we can."
The Council of Presidents' priorities now reflects how it will publicize what the University is currently doing to prevent sexual violence. The council also says it will work with the University to create "safe space training activities" to be completed by club leaders.
Mayberry said GPSA members are still willing to implement the CAARE Center but there are still questions that need to be answered in order to satisfy the graduate and professional student constituency.
"Some members of GPSA have said, 'well, have they thought about this?' or 'how does that impact us in these ways?'" Mayberry said. "Those types of clarification are things that we would appreciate before we would want to take an official stance on something."
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Reagan Priest is the politics editor, leading coverage of ASU’s relationship to Arizona’s political entities. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and currently works as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.