By Henry Fisher | March 6, 2023
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The University at Albany’s Student Association’s (SA) session this week featured a university report from Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Michael Christakis, the Director Office of Health Promotion Kelly Gorman, and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Joyce Dewitt-Parker, in response to recently passed Title IX Legislation and the large student-led advocacy group at the last SA meeting. Both had called for a return to UAlbany’s old advocacy center.
Christakis, Gorman, and Dewitt-Parker emphasized the importance of student advocacy and the redundant nature of a new advocacy center. They also showed off a new page on the UAlbany website for sexual violence victims, one with a comprehensive list of options for victims.
“The advocacy center has evolved and is in the Office of Health Promotion,” Gorman said.
Dewitt-Parker and Gorman also went more into the original reasoning behind why the UAlbany advocacy center was disbanded, and the issues associated with it.
Dewitt-Parker, who was the coordinator for sexual assault cases before the advocacy center, referenced how UAlbany’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) was once across the street from campus. This separation had originally given rise to the on-campus advocacy center.
“Students needed to cross the street, take the bus, to use our services,” Dewitt-Parker said.
With CAPS now located in the Student Success Center at Dutch Quad, the need for an on-campus advocacy center has diminished.
Gorman highlighted one of the larger issues of the old advocacy center, that “...the advocacy center was never confidential by state law.”
CAPS’s services are confidential, while the Title IX office, following state guidelines, seeks to “limit the disclosure as much as practicable,” according to the UAlbany Title IX webpage. According to the webpage, nothing is to be reported without permission unless it is deemed there is a safety emergency.
Dewitt-Parker discussed CAPS three trauma specialists, saying “...with a trauma specialist, we have someone who can talk with those with sexual trauma.”
Addressing the work that SA had done to help sexual violence victims and prevent further cases, Christakis said “The work we have done and presented comes as a result of [SA’s] leadership.”
“Violence prevention doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts with student leaders and with us,” Gorman said. “Changing our culture starts right here, in this room.”
“Coming here today… was to acknowledge the important advocacy that the Student Association leadership has brought to bear on those who have experienced some form of sexual violence, sexual assault and [to acknowledge] the resources that exist on campus,” Christakis said. “We thought it was important to come to both respond to the resolution, but also to call out items that – because of the Student Association’s advocacy – have either occurred or will occur.”
Concerning the process of change at UAlbany, Christakis said, “as a couple of students have noted, sometimes things take time. In this particular case, given the sustained advocacy around it, I think it actually happened quicker because there was so much agreement, both on the part of the Student Association and on the university, to support those who’ve been impacted by sexual violence – as victims, as survivors, and as allies.”
No specific plans were made for the future beyond increasing staffing at CAPS.
The meeting continued with this week’s appropriations agenda bringing funding from the recent line transfer to zero. A total of $7,922.97 was given to clubs. As of the present, the Supplemental Line is at zero, the New and Unfunded Line is at $10,000, and the Sponsorship Line is at $2,500.
Those that received funding were the UAlbany Young Democratic Socialists of America ($1,844.48), the Shabbos House ($2,200.48), the Pan-Carribean Student Association ($2,387.29), Klosure Dance Team ($399.28), the Association of Southeast Asian Students ($400), Project Sunshine ($321.45), and the Students for Sensible Drug Policy ($369.99).
The Pan-Carribean Student Association had originally asked for $4,427.20 for eight round trip plane tickets, but received less funding due to the Supplemental line being depleted. The club plans to readjust their end of year event budget to make up for the additional funding.