Letter to the Editor: Student leaders urge University to increase support for CARE

Northwestern recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in many positive ways. From the annual Take Back the Night march to educational dialogues, our community takes seriously its responsibility to support survivors — at least, in theory.

The University has allocated resources for just three full-time staffers to run the Center for Awareness, Response and Education (though one of those positions remains vacant), which supports a campus of more than 22,000 individuals. CARE has become a hub for sexual assault-related action at Northwestern. But its staff cannot — and should not — continue to address these issues alone.

While 179 Title IX violations were reported to the Office of Equity in the 2015-16 academic year, at least 16 percent of students indicated experiencing a sexual assault during their time at Northwestern — which would amount to more than 3,500 people. Not all of these survivors may feel the need to share their experience, but they deserve our support on whatever path they choose — be it holistic, general support from CARE or justice through Title IX.

For a University that claims to support survivors, the immense amount of resources placed in a failing system — the Office of Equity is currently three times the size of CARE — is inefficient and unacceptable.

In addition to directly supporting survivors, CARE has a litany of other responsibilities that stem from its principles of social justice, survivor-centeredness and sex positivity. It oversees three student groups (Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, SPEAK for Change), organizes new student education, facilitates Support Starts Here and Step Up training, and coordinates the quarterly Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence.

Through its programming, CARE has made more than 8,300 training contacts so far this academic year — far surpassing 7,700 in all of last year.

As vice president for student affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin said when CARE became its own office, these programs, student groups and trainings have helped make Northwestern “a healthy, safe place” and create a “culture of consent.” But for CARE to continue this uphill battle, it needs help.

We demand that administrators allocate additional resources to CARE as it continues to support the NU community. To begin with, the University should hire a full-time Prevention Educator to spearhead CARE’s massive campus outreach. In addition, permanent funding should be made available for the graduate students who support CARE’s mission; they are hard-working, talented and critical to daily operations.

CARE has relied on temporary grants and funding sources for too long. It’s time for Northwestern to put its money where its mouth is and to use the massive resources at its disposal to support survivors.

As we reflect on SAAM this year, let’s remember those who have dedicated their lives to supporting survivors. These people have a hard road ahead; they deserve our support, too.

Serene Singh (Director, SHAPE)
David Fishman (Director, MARS)
Emagin Tanaschuk (Chairperson, SPEAK For Change)