Loyola announced Feb. 3 it’s participating in an initiative to better prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, alongside 17 other colleges.
After applying in the fall 2021 semester, Loyola was accepted to be a part of a two-year Culture of Respect Collective designed by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators (NASPA). The collectives’ primary goal is ending sexual violence on college campuses.
This is the sixth cohort of the Culture of Respect Collective — roughly 142 colleges and universities have participated in it.
It operates off a six pillar system: survivor support, clear policies, multi-tiered education for the entire campus, public disclosure of statistics, school-wide mobilization with students, groups and leaders, and ongoing self-assessment, according to Samantha Maher Sheahan, Loyola’s associate dean of students and deputy Title IX Coordinator.
Tim Love, executive director for the Office for Equity and Compliance and Title IX coordinator, said there’s no way to know what changes will be made yet, explaining it varies specifically to what’s needed most and what will better impact the Loyola community.
“One of the drives to this program is it’s a nationally recognized program based on solid research,” Love said. “I hope that it will be helpful in that this is not something that we are kind of doing ourselves and making up as we go, but that this is part of something that’s been around for years that other schools have benefited from.”
The program was created in 2013 by college students and became part of NASPA in 2016. After the first cohort completed the program, the Culture of Respect Collective released a blueprint that found, generally, their programs were successfully implemented and campuses benefited from them.
The report described the changes as “impressive” and said “meaningful change” was implemented in all the participating colleges, particularly in support services for survivors and training for faculty. Although the blueprint results were self reported by the colleges via survey.
Loyola is in phase one of the program after meeting with the group in late January, which entails creating a campus leadership team, Mira Krivoshey, assistant director for health promotion and sexual assault advocate, said.
The leadership team will be composed of students from the Community Coalition of Gender Based Violence, “The Line” volunteers, the CHANGE student organization, the Black Cultural Center, SGLC and graduate student groups.
Maher Sheahan said the established leadership team will take a self-assessment form of over 195 questions, producing a score that highlights changes to be made on campus.
From the score, the team will develop a plan of action through summer and fall 2022. The changes are expected to be made in 2023, followed by another evaluation.
Maher Sheahan said the original assessment score will be compared with the second to see what worked and what areas still need improvement.
The news comes after student protests in September, which called for Loyola to expel reported abusers. Maher Sheahan said the university’s decision to apply to the Collective was not entirely based on the protests, but they were “related.”
“When your students are saying to you, ‘We need to do something,’ when you have the opportunity to do that you need to do that,” Maher Sheahan said. “This is one good step in that direction, but we were already starting with these conversations, this was just a different approach to moving this work forward over the next two years.”
Sydney Ward, a senior studying conservation restoration ecology, said the collective feels like “damage control” by Loyola.
“It strikes me as a little hypocritical that they’re like ‘Oh here we are, we’re gonna help’ but they didn’t help [other students],” Ward, 26, said.
Ward said the school should listen to survivors and make the changes they want.
Ultimately, the group helps Loyola create a strategic planning process “for gender-based violence prevention, policy and response” to be implemented by the leadership team, according to Maher Sheahan.
“My goal really is to create a bit of a culture shift at Loyola around transparency, accountability, and prevention,” Krivoshey said. “My hope is that what this collective does is raise the general awareness of everyone at the university of not only what we’re currently doing but what could be done and getting people more involved.”
Maher Sheahan, Love and Krivoshey emphasized transparency that will come from Loyola being a part of this collective. To do this, a university Culture of Respect website will be posted, listing the leadership team members, updates and ways for students to give feedback.
“It’s really going to depend on everybody else’s willingness to participate in this process for us to be as successful as possible,” Maher Sheahan said. “The more people participate the better it’s gonna be.”
Love said he feels Loyola already has good foundations in prevention and support.
“We’re choosing to do this program not because of some sort of controversy or … some sort of deficiency, but because we’re now at a place as an institution that we should be focusing our efforts on what can we do more,” Love said.
Despite this, some students said they don’t feel comfortable reporting sexual assaults at Loyola because they don’t think any resolutions would be made.
Julie Murillo-Lomeli, a third-year studying advertising and PR, said she thinks the university “brushes off” survivors and their needs, and would be more comfortable reporting assault to the police.
“I think they should participate because I did hear a couple issues that weren’t resolved by the school,” Murillo-Lomeli, 21, said.
Similarly, Bryan Barrientos, a senior studying criminal justice and Spanish, said he wouldn’t be comfortable asking the university for support.
“I feel like they should try and make sure it’s actually a safe environment because I don’t feel like people think it’s a safe environment,” Barrientos, 22, said.
Students have raised concerns about Loyola’s handling of sexual assault cases in recent years. In 2020, a student expelled for rape allegations ended up walking the stage at graduation. A professor found guilty of sexual misconduct in 2018 was still teaching classes in 2020. And in 2019, three Loyola students were assaulted by the same male student, leading to a months-long Title IX investigations, which the survivors described as unsupportive and hard for them.
First-year student Mirette Habib, who’s in the dual acceptance program for pharmacy, said she feels there’s “a lot of” sexual violence in the community and is happy Loyola has joined the collective.
The 2020 Clery report, released in 2021, revealed five instances of rape on campus, The Phoenix reported. Although, less than 100 students were staying on campus in the spring semester due to COVID-19. The 2021 Clery report will be released October 1, 2022.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports 26.4% of undergraduate females and 6.8% of undergraduate males experience sexual assault. Majority of sexual violence cases happen between August and November as new students unfamiliar to campus are targeted, according to End Rape On Campus (EROC). As a result, EROC projected sexual assaults would rise 50% during the fall 2021 semester due to both freshmen and sophomores being on campus for the first time. EROC estimated more than 100 protests against rape and assault have happened at colleges across the nation this academic school year.
While the initial work in the collective only lasts two years, Loyola will continue to be involved, attending the National Conference’s and working with the other institutions and continue to reevaluate progress, according to Maher Sheahan.
If a survivor of assault, students can speak to an advocate by calling “The Line” at 773-494-3810 – which doesn’t trigger a formal report and is run by student volunteers. Students can also file a report online, through email at email@example.com or by calling 773-508-7766.