Story by Zach Avery, Reporter
Photo courtesy Zach Avery
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) most recent study, women between the ages of 18 and 24 who live on a college campus are three times as likely as all other women to become a victim of sexual violence. In order to combat this growing problem with our national campus safety, organizations like the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) have begun work on a world-wide model that would assist college administrators in maintaining a safe environment for their students. Since the model’s conception three years ago, many universities from around the world have jumped on board in order to help.
One of these institutions is our very own Aquinas College, where Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Lisa Hetzel and Area Coordinator Mike Ingram will be leading our school’s specialized initiative, with Ingram acting as co-leader. Aquinas will be joining in on NASPA’s third cohort model. This certain cohort places Aquinas College alongside over thirty universities from around the world, with all of them having applied to be a part of NASPA’s efforts. It exists as a two-year model, where Dr. Hetzel and her team will be using the given resources from NASPA as tools to help solve this problem right here on our very own campus.
When asked for specifics on how exactly Aquinas’ participation in the “Culture of Respect Collective” will help our students, Hetzel says, “One of the things that the culture allows is that we have instantaneous and easy access to experts on the topic of sexual assault.”
This will also include possession of up-to-date sources on sexual assault on college campuses, which will be another tool for Aquinas when dealing with future issues head-on.
Hetzel says, “It will not only help students, but it will help the institution…it will help us as an organization.”
In order for Aquinas College to participate in the third cohort out of the NASPA, Dr. Hetzel first wrote a grant for the state of Michigan to help supply the necessary funds. After her grant was approved, Hetzel participated in a college safety self-assessment. This revealed that although Aquinas was doing well with its quick reports to students, it needed work when it came to student outreach. Aquinas College students weren’t learning about what sources were available when it came to sexual assault, and that is one thing that Hetzel and her team are set on improving.
In the meantime, Dr. Hetzel will be working on developing an individualized plan for Aquinas College that will help consider some of our specific problems. She even generated some new ideas in this interview, talking about whether or not Aquinas students would respond and listen well to some sort of peer-educative group. Looking at the issue from a broader perspective, Hetzel and this reporter agreed that the root could be discussions on consent, and the lack thereof in certain schools. A good first step could be open meetings where groups of students are invited to attend and talk more on the importance of consent for young people. Despite how complicated some of these concepts can be, Hetzel believes that the best first step for Aquinas College would be to facilitate such discussions and conversations.
If you’d like to ask some of your own questions about the “Culture of Respect Collective”, or you need to speak with Dr. Hetzel about your own experience with sexual assault, then you can find her in her office at the Academic Building, Room 107.