ASG senators voted 41-0-2 in favor of a bill promoting sexual assault accountability Wednesday night. Last week, this bill caused controversy after senators representing the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) walked out during debate, which disrupted quorum and prevented a vote. However, Speaker of the Senate Nehaarika Mulukutla said this week's Senate had its highest attendance of any meeting this quarter, and so ASG was consequently able to conduct a successful vote for this bill.
The newly-passed legislation includes a number of resolutions, including that the University order SAE to immediately cease and desist all operations during its pending investigation of sexual assault allegations against the fraternity (this action is largely symbolic, since SAE's national quarters have already done so). It also calls for Northwestern to enforce harsher penalties for individuals found guilty of using or possessing date-rape drugs, and to make members of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE) paid employees of the University in recognition of the work they do with sexual assault survivors. Furthermore, the bill endorses a transition to a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual assault, meaning individuals found guilty of sexual misconduct would be prohibited from ever returning to the University grounds.
The bill was co-authored by Medill freshman Gabrielle Bienasz and Weinberg junior Lars Benson. While explaining the bill, Benson denounced the actions of former IFC Senator Mike Seethaler and the SAE representatives of last week.
"They fled from the room the moment they thought their opinion might be made public in any regard," Benson said. "It's clear that the four men men who represented SAE last week were ashamed of their votes. They turned their backs on any shred of honor that could be ascribed to them. We as a body – and as a school – are better than this."
In addition to passing this bill, former co-vice president of student life Sumaia Masoom and Executive-Vice President of Student Life Macs Vinson introduced separate legislation regarding sexual assault accountability within ASG. The new resolution, which echoes the policy of organizations like CARE and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS), would require that ASG members found guilty of sexual assault immediately remove themselves from the organization.
"It's important to remember that in ASG, we do a lot of work around sexual misconduct, and it's important to practice what we preach here," Vinson said.
Masoom and Vinson's bill will be voted on at next week's Senate.