Yesterday the Department of Education released the names of 55 schools under investigation for Title IX complaints. Thanks to the hard work of student survivors and advocates this information became public at a time when students are making final decisions about where they want to attend college in the Fall.
In many news stories, I have heard the surprise in the voices of media reporters when finding out that many of the schools on the list are quite prestigious universities like Harvard and Berkeley.  As an advocate for more than 20 years, faculty at a community college and having done statewide, national and international work with universities and students, I’m not as surprised, and not for the reasons you may think.  These schools absolutely need to change their policies in addressing and preventing sexual assault on college campuses.  They haven’t been listening to student survivors and haven’t been effectively responding to student’s needs.  However, I am also aware that many of these universities have students who are more likely to access what they know to be effective remedies for them, and systems that are more likely to work for them like governmental and legal systems.  These student groundbreakers have held not only their schools more accountable but also made the rest of us very concerned about this issue on college campuses, and these systems are now responding by FINALLY taking their experiences seriously.
What continues to concern me, however, are the many students who were too afraid to come forward to even talk about their experience, students who felt that their experiences with sexual assault wouldn’t fit the social criteria of sexual assault, and those students who were convinced that, not only wouldn’t their school listen to them, but that those systems that are now becoming a resource for so many student survivors, weren’t accessible to them.
CALCASA was honored, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to bring together more than 50 students from around the State of California.  These students came from a wide variety of universities and with a broad range of experiences.  Students represented community colleges, public and private universities, and trade schools.  Students came from broad socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, gender, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity make up.  They were working parents, part time students, graduate students, first generations students and transfer students.  What they told us consistently, and what we hear from these same types of students in our national work, is that they felt like their needs weren’t really on the table when it came to addressing sexual assault on college campuses and that they wanted their schools to think about the range of needs that they had, everything from safe and “no questions asked” transportation to confidential community based resources that didn’t require them to be caught up in the web of institutional responses that are often intimidating and don’t fit for them.
I am so proud of the student survivors who have been doing the hard work of holding schools accountable for a safe and equitable education, and at the same time, as an advocate for many years I know that all survivors don’t have the same needs, and some survivors are fearful of the types of responses we produce to “protect” them.    As we continue to work on this issue, it is critical to think about a broad range of student experience so that all students feel as though there are resources that fit their needs.