ASUSF Senate holds town hall, Title IX reps featured as guest speakers

About a month after the Sports Illustrated article, Title IX representatives Jess Varga and Katrina Garry were invited by Senate as guest speakers at this fall semester’s town hall event. PHOTO COURTESY OF COURTNEY HOANG/ASUSF SENATE

Last week, ASUSF Senate hosted its annual fall town hall. The Oct. 27 event invited Jess Varga, the University’s Title IX coordinator, Katrina Garry, deputy Title IX coordinator, and Lisa Quach, the sexual violence and resource advocate, for a discussion and Q&A regarding ongoing efforts in preventing sexual violence and ensuring safety within the USF community. 

Elizabeth Velez, vice president of public relations, estimated that the attendance was about 55 people, which is slightly less than what typical ASUSF meetings average. However, she said this was to be expected due to overlap with other organizations’ events on the same day. 

  The meeting began with an update on resolutions and initiatives passed by ASUSF in the last year. Senate’s efforts in fostering a more inclusive community were highlighted, with each student representative detailing their progress. 

Muslim Student Representative Fiza Shaikh discussed her work in cultivating a more religiously tolerant environment on campus. Shaikh said her aim is for “USF to explore a broader and more encompassing religious exemption policy to provide an inclusive community for students of all religions.” As a result of her efforts, practicing Muslim students are now allowed to be excused from class at least 15 minutes early if it conflicts with prayer time. 

The event shifted to a discussion with the Title IX panelists as attendees wondered if the Sept. 30 Sports Illustrated article, which detailed a longstanding history of sexual misconduct among the USF men’s soccer team, would be brought up. 

Vargas assured attendees that she and her colleagues have been working to address the demands made by both It’s On USFCA and the Rebuild and Trust Community Working Group, which is a group of students and teachers who advocate for victims of sexual violence prevention on campus. Additionally, Vargas informed attendees about the 90-minute sexual violence prevention workshops that were presented to the 15 different athletic programs on campus within the first four weeks of the semester, as well the variety of workshops that are available upon request via the Title IX website. 

Additionally, the Title IX task force for sexual misconduct prevention and education commitment has been renamed to REPS, which stands for resources, education, prevention, and support. With this rebranding has come the development of several subcommittees and increased collaboration with different groups. Garry said, “There is a regular collaboration with cultural centers and sexual violence resource advocates to foster inclusive and intersectional programming and events. It is really important to acknowledge the role of privilege when it comes to confronting sexual violence.” As the Foghorn reported last week, there are 12 student representatives on this committee. 

Afterward, Quach organized attendees into six different groups for conversations about the social and sexual norms at USF, and this was led by students on the REPS committee. Student leaders assured the group members that they could speak honestly so that the conversations could be productive and engaging. 

The attendees sat in circles and shared personal stories and engaged in candid conversations about their experiences at USF. Students praised the tight-knit student community but suggested that the lack of campus social event options can push students to look for fun in dangerous places. 

Title IX representatives then opened up the final 15 minutes of the Town Hall for a Q&A panel. Despite initial hesitancy from the audience, an ASUSF representative began the proceedings by asking whether Title IX planned to instill mandated sexual violence education. 

Vargas explained that Title IX is currently hosting workshops upon request and is exploring the potential of implementing a mandatory sexual violence prevention Canvas module. As of now, Title IX educates around 2,000 students a year between orientation, mandatory reporting, and NCAA athlete training. 

Quach answered the question of whether Title IX could provide safe sex education and free contraceptives. Though not something they were considering at the moment, Quach said it was a potential idea to collaborate with other organizations in the future. 

When reflecting on the meeting, freshman psychology major Sidney Tran said, “The event was really informative and gave me a lot of information about how to reach Title IX and other resources.” Tran felt that these were especially important resources to highlight in light of the Sports Illustrated article, which she was surprised was not a more focal point of the meeting, “I was hoping that there would be more follow up,” said Tran. 

Likewise, senior entrepreneurship major, Julia Naing, gave props to both Senate and guest speakers for the amount of information they were able to provide and the conversations they started.“I appreciated how we discussed some topics I hadn’t considered. It was obvious the amount of work and research the students leading the discussions had gone through.”

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