Photo by Jim Tranquada
OSAC student demonstration, November 12, 2021

Following listening sessions and a student demonstration in November, President Elam expands the College’s efforts to prevent sexual misconduct and support survivors

A campus dialogue this fall sparked by heightened concerns about sexual misconduct prompted President Harry J. Elam, Jr. to announce a series of actions to expand the College’s efforts to prevent sexual misconduct and support survivors.

After meeting with members of the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC) and other students, Elam announced the first initiatives at the end of September: training specific to Oxy and focused on changing behavior and culture; more resources for the Title IX Office; and additional resources for survivor advocacy through Project SAFE (Project for a Sexual Assault-Free Environment).

Subsequently, after a series of listening sessions held by Project SAFE followed by an OSAC-organized campus march and demonstration that attracted several hundred students in November, Elam announced additional measures to develop and implement “strategies that promote sexual respect and a healthy campus environment.

“Observing the unity and commitment of the gathered student community at the protest served to reaffirm for me that our students, faculty, and staff can productively work together to achieve change,” Elam said in a November 16 message to campus. “Because of our size, our culture of care, and our unique community, Oxy must also continue to educate and train all community members, and expand our efforts designed to prevent sexual misconduct and support survivors. As president, I am firmly committed to doing so.” 

Among the measures the College has pledged to carry out are:

●     Hiring a second confidential survivor advocate and additional student program assistants for the Project SAFE Office.
●     Hiring a full-time case and support manager in the Title IX Office.
●     Identifying resources and appropriately trained individuals to provide in-person support on weekends to ensure that Oxy students have access to confidential support seven days a week.
●     Hiring an additional counselor in Emmons Wellness Center, with priority given to candidates with expertise in working with non-binary students and students of color.
●     Generating greater awareness of survivor advocacy and resources, including the availability of the College’s online anonymous reporting form and making changes to the Sexual Respect and Title IX website.
●     Appointing an inclusive Sexual Misconduct Training and Education Working Group to develop a new, comprehensive training and education program tailored specifically to Oxy.
●     In addition to the existing annual report, publishing end-of-semester reports that provide an overview of the reports received by the Title IX Office and the resolution of formal complaints, including sanctions imposed. The first end-of-semester report can be found here
●     Reconvening the Occidental Restorative Justice Group, which has been on pause since the pandemic began, to support restorative responses to Title IX, conflict, harm, and community building, as well as other aspects of campus life.

One of the chief features of the November 12 protest—OSAC’s first since 2014—was a series of personal statements from survivors of assault and other forms of gender-based violence. Some were anonymous submissions read by organizers; others were testimonies offered by survivors themselves.

Junior economics major Theo Kohler-White, who attended the demonstration, expressed her appreciation to those OSAC members who addressed campus sexual assault in a public forum. “I just feel really thankful for them and for their voices on campus,” she told The Occidental, “because not everyone is able to speak up like that, and not everyone is able to mobilize and make stuff happen.”

Above: Members of the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC) address a gathering of students on the steps by Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center on November 12, 2021. Photo by Jim Tranquada.