ASG Senate postpones voting on sexual assault accountability bill

    During ASG's four-hour meeting on Wednesday night, senators debated a bill addressing the university's policy regarding sexual assault. The bill, as it stands now (it may still be amended or reworded since it has not been formally passed), calls for the Northwestern administration to make sexual assault prevention a "priority," and for the university to issue a cease-and-desist order against Sigma Alpha Episilon fraternity. It also urges the university to permanently remove any individuals found guilty of purchasing, possessing or using a date-rape drug, among other actions.

    Senators discussed the bill, which was proposed after reports of sexual assault were filed against SAE and another unidentified fraternity, for nearly three hours. Several SAE members were present, and they engaged in the discussion by proposing amendments of their own, particularly relating to specific word choices within the bill. SAE representatives especially argued that calling for a university-issued cease-and-desist order would be unnecessary, as the fraternity's national headquarters have already issued such an order. However, many other senators remained supportive of that action to represent more of a symbolic gesture.

    Weinberg junior Lars Benson and Medill freshman Gabrielle Bienasz authored the bill, and they first introduced the bill at last week's meeting. Typically, Senate meetings have a three-hour time limit, but members voted to extend the time with intentions of voting on the proposed bill tonight.

    However, near the end of the fourth hour, the senators decided voting on the bill would proceed through a "roll call" method (meaning that everyone would know how other senators voted, as opposed to a blind vote). After that movement was passed, the SAE members present decided to leave because they "felt uncomfortable and threatened" by the idea of a roll call vote. As a result of their departure, there was not quorum in the Senate – meaning not enough people were present to hold a vote, and the bill will be pushed back until next week. 

    In addition to discussing the sexual assault accountability bill, CAPS executive director Dr. John Dunkle spoke about the progress CAPS has made this year in regards to improving mental health accessibility on campus.  He said CAPS has seen a 35 percent increase this year in students seeking out its services when they're going through crises situations, which mirrors trends nationwide. While Dunkle said this was a positive development, it has put somewhat of a strain on the rest of the office – especially since CAPS removed its 12-session limit on therapy earlier this year, therefore increasing the number of students still requesting or needing counseling.

    Finally, Weinberg senior Lauren Thomas and Weinberg sophomore Shayna Servillas also introduced a bill calling for Northwestern to provide increased protection of student protests on campus and take more decisive action to prevent censorship of students and faculty, which will be voted on next week, along with the sexual assault accountability bill. 


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