Christina Kaviani is Cal Poly’s Safer coordinator.
President Obama late last month organized a task force that will meet for 90 days to analyze what universities are doing to prevent sexual assault on campuses and make recommendations for how they can improve.
But students and staff involved with Safer, Cal Poly’s resource to educate students on sexual assault and dating violence, takes a skeptical approach to the plan. Safer tackles the kinds of issues that Obama is now addressing.
Safer coordinator Christina Kaviani said she’s encouraged by the national attention this topic is receiving.
“The more publicity on the topic, the better. If the president of the United States is sending that out, whatever comes of it is going to be a huge deal,” Kaviani said. “It makes it so that our country puts this issue on the spotlight.”
But for some students, talk from the White House isn’t enough.
“It all depends on whether or not this is just bureaucratic talk,” English sophomore Savanna Evans said. “Whether or not they are going to actually implement these ideas and if they will actually be affected. People talk about problems and not solutions. Really the problem is more within the boundaries of our society.”
By releasing “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action”, Obama shined light on a situation that has been recently overshadowed by debate surrounding sexual assault problems in the military. Though Obama has taken action and made efforts to solve sexual assault at colleges and universities, the issue of sexual assault is not going to simply be alleviated on campuses any time soon, Kaviani said.
“Being someone who is here at Cal Poly, I do think there is always something more we can do,” Kaviani said. “However, my first thought … was that we want a quick fix for everything. In three months, they want to be able to report, ‘Because of Obama’s task force, the whole culture of rape is now changed’ — which obviously cannot happen.”
For Kaviani, an ideal solution would involve addressing the problem before students get to college.
“From working in this field, I have learned that we need to put a bigger lens on our K-12 system, an area where people are truly developing who they are,” Kaviani said. “We can get this self-awareness early on by teaching people assertiveness, confidence and empathy as self-development.”
Cassie Pitkin, a counseling and guidance for higher education graduate student, said how people are raised, how people socialize and how the media portrays women are all problems that need to be addressed.
“To me, addressing rape is something that needs to be done,” Pitkin said. “If we’re really going to tackle it in the future, those are the things that need to be addressed, as opposed to just catching criminals.”
Kaviani said she hopes Obama’s plan results in consistent regulations for what compliances look like for all universities. Currently, every university approaches the problem differently, Kaviani said.
Safer already implements several programs and offers self-defense training for people that want to become advocates within the movement against sexual assault. They hold crisis services that walk people through the process of counseling and reporting.