Beginning next semester, student employees of the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) may no longer serve as confidential members of Safe Space when dealing with issues of sexual misconduct.
Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon and Meadow Davis, associate director of student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator, have been working on this adjustment but were not able to fully discuss the change with all members of Safe Space and Res Life until their meeting on Wednesday evening.
In an interview with the Orient, both McMahon and Davis emphasized that this is a policy “shift” or “clarification,” not a policy change.
The announcement aims to help students understand the support resources available to them, and to clarify how proctors communicate with their residents, according to Davis and McMahon.
Their intention is to help students “understand the distinction between who is confidential and who is trustworthy,” said Davis.
Safe Space is a student-run support group for survivors of sexual assault. Members of Safe Space participate in over 30 hours of training run by the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine and once they’ve completed the appropriate training, are given the option of appearing on “bathroom lists” as confidential resources for survivors.
According to Safe Space co-leader Sam Shapiro ’14, there are approximately 265 of these bathroom lists across campus.
Starting next semester, this delineation will be made on bathroom lists: the names of residential advisors (RAs) and proctors will no longer be included, which means that they cannot be confidential resources. However, they will still be allowed to do Safe Space training.
Currently, roughly 40 students who have participated in Safe Space training opt not to appear on the bathroom lists. The policy shift only affects three or four members of ResLife whose names are on the current lists, according to Shapiro.
Prior to this policy clarification, members of ResLife could appear on bathroom lists. However, they could not be confidential resources for their proctees or affiliates.
These overlapping roles could prove confusing, which is one of the reasons Davis and McMahon decided to put the shift into action.
“As member of ResLife, it can be hard to make decisions about which hat to put on,” said Shapiro.
By clarifying this process, Davis and McMahon also hope to centralize information for survivors. When a student comes to a proctor or RA with a problem concerning sexual assault or misconduct, the member of ResLife will suggest the student talk to Davis, who will have a comprehensive conversation about every resource available.
Though ResLife members cannot provide confidential support, they are still encouraged to follow up with the student to make sure Davis has been consulted.
This way, Davis and McMahon can ensure that each student who encounters a problem of this nature knows about all the available resources and options.
“The student staff plays a key role in helping personalize [and endorse] resources,” said McMahon.
Ultimately, Shapiro said, “taking ResLife people off the bathroom list isn’t going to affect the Safe Space mission.”
Currently, ResLife is working with Safe Space to develop a way to share the names of staff members who have gone through the training to be a resource for survivors of sexual assault.