Biola’s mission in light of sexual violence
Christian universities often struggle to maintain their image in this conversation. | John Uy/THE CHIMES [file photo]
Biola made little to no changes in policy to reflect nationally published statistics in regard to sexual assault.
more addressing on campus
This is because Biola as a university has been involved in this conversation for years. When President Obama made April the nationally-observed Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Biola nodded in his direction, having already hosted our 2012 spring Awareness Week around sexual violence, and kept on their long since decided course of being a voice on this issue.
Nonetheless, both faculty and students agree this topic needs more addressing on campus. Changes were student and administration driven, such as the club Brave Voices, and student-produced awareness nights like last semester’s showing of The Hunting Ground.
While Campus Safety has put measures in place to further protect and serve victims, administration has aimed their gaze toward greater unity with the country as a whole by observing awareness week on this heated issue.
Biola’s Marketing and Communications center focuses primarily on how Biola as a private institution is represented and portrayed nationally and academically. Brenda Velasco, assistant director of Public Relations and Internal Communications, unveiled Biola has participated in this conversation long before the national “It’s On Us” campaign began.
“We’ve had ongoing events and conversations for years now, so this isn’t a new thing for Biola… It’s not something we’ve been avoiding,” Velasco said. “The difference is that sexual assault became a national conversation through Obama. When he designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2014, then colleges around the country sort of elevated the conversation.”
Administration created a task force of student leaders, Student Government Association and key administrative coordinators. Hannah Hoffman, junior elementary education major, played a vital role in planning events for this April’s upcoming awareness week starting the 25th. As a Sigma senator, Hoffman’s involvement with SGA allowed for close cooperation with student leaders as well as campus administration. She stressed SGA’s greater involvement as the week approaches.
“They will become specifically involved in the actual week,” Hoffman said. “[Student Development] reached out to people from different departments, to have a variety within, that’s how the task force got created.”
Sarah Schwartz, administrative coordinator for communications, shared about her experience with administrative events as an undergraduate at Biola. While she has kept careful watch over Biola’s voice on this issue as a faculty member, she admitted the only event she remembered during her time as a student to be the Clothesline Project.
“It’s a national campaign that displays survivors’ stories on t-shirts that are hung up on clotheslines,” Schwartz said. “I would hope that with this upcoming programming week, that we get into a more substantial rhythm of talking about this regularly.”
Faculty have been trained on what to do if a student reports a sexual assault to them, through lengthy online courses and training procedures. Underclassmen and incoming students must complete mandatory, free online courses on consent and California law prior to registering for classes.
In addition, the schedule for Sexual Violence Prevention Week holds an event strictly for Biola faculty, where they will get hands-on training and procedures on how to deal withstudent reports of sexual assault. These events are specifically tailored to and will help equip staff and faculty in those situations, Velasco explained.