May 7, 2010

At open forum, Zimmer calls sexual assault referendum "valuable data"

President Robert Zimmer addressed student questions about last month’s sexual assault referendum and last quarter’s arrest of third-year Maurice Dawson at an open forum Wednesday in the Reynold’s Club.

Students pressed him to discuss the relationship between campus police and minority students, the University’s role in the Hyde Park community, and alcohol use on campus.

In response to student support for a sexual assault policy referendum, Zimmer said the University would take the recent student vote into account, calling the almost 80 percent in favor of reform one of the more “valuable pieces of information” available when the policy is reviewed.

Zimmer defended the current policy, in which faculty in the department of the accused assess his or her case, saying “for a long time…issues around discipline have been driven by faculty.” However, he remained open about including non-faculty in future reforms.

“It shows that [Zimmer] has an open mind about the future of the sexual assault policy,” first-year and incoming liaison to the board of trustees Frank Alarcon said.

When the February arrest in the Regenstein Library came up, students focused their questions on why Zimmer did not make a statement about the incident and how the arrest could reflect problems with diversity on campus.

For Vice President of Campus Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who also took questions, the incident was outside of Zimmer’s purview. “It was a campus and student life issue…It made sense to keep it at the vice presidential level,” she said.

Addressing concerns that the incident stemmed from a lack of campus diversity, Zimmer said the University reaches out to a diverse body of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. “There are very specific programs designed to address [diversity] issues,” he said, adding that “progress has been positive but relatively slow.”

Goff-Crews mentioned that the University has been following up on campus alcohol use after a November e-mail was sent out by administrators. “We’ve been working on creating alcohol education programs…so [students] have a little bit more training about appropriate alcohol use,” she said, but also commented that problems haven’t arisen since November. “We don’t think there is a crisis at the moment, but there is enough information to get our attention.”