We are writing you today as concerned students and alumni who feel the need to make our voices heard about a change to the University which deeply saddens us. As long time volunteers of the Advocacy Center, we have all experienced the impact of having a Center on campus solely dedicated to the support of survivors of sexual assault and the prevention of such heinous crimes.
Paul has had the privilege to be a member of the SU community since the Fall 2007 semester. He completed his undergraduate degree in engineering at SUNY ESF, as well as a Master’s program in engineering. He is currently in the Cultural Foundations of Education M.S. program, within the School of Education at SU, and served as the Graduate Assistant for the Advocacy Center this past academic year. As a volunteer within the Advocacy Center since 2008, Paul has worked side by side with incredible people including survivors of sexual violence, as well as allies. Paul also served the SU community as a four year member of the SU Marching Band, and as a Resident Advisor for three full years, as well as working on campus in a variety of other jobs.
Erin is a recent Syracuse University graduate, class of 2014, with a Bachelors of Arts in Policy Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. Throughout her time at SU, Erin served as President of Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment (SASSE), which is a student-run organization at SU that educates and empowers students regarding sexual assault awareness, and had a strong and intentional relationship with The Advocacy Center. The Advocacy Center has always supported SASSE and served as a critical resource for members of our organization as well as during our programing events for council. Without The Advocacy Center, SASSE’s efforts to educate our campus and empower survivors of sexual assault would not have been as effective.
Sam graduated from Syracuse University in May 2013 with a Bachelors of Science in Health and Exercise Science. As a survivor of sexual assault, Sam credits the Advocacy Center to her success at Syracuse University. Without their confidential support services as well as their outreach and education programs, Sam affirms that she would have left Syracuse University altogether during her first year. By getting involved in Sex-Esteem, Mentors in Violence Prevention, and Take Back the Night, Sam credits her personal healing and growth to the Advocacy Center.
After we received your memo on May 30th, we were extremely disappointed and appalled that the decision to close and realign The Advocacy Center had been made. Not only was this decision made without any input from students, it is also in direct opposition to recent guidelines released by the White House Task Force for Protecting Students From Sexual Assault. We do not understand how such a decision could be made at a time when all information coming out of the federal government would suggest returning The Advocacy Center to full confidential status, and keeping the education and outreach programming in the same state.
Placing the Counseling Center, which presents many stigmas and barriers to survivors seeking help, as the primary entry point does a major disservice to our students. Not only is the Counseling Center overworked and understaffed, they are not the ideal place for survivors to go and feel safe. The physical location of the Counseling Center presents a major obstacle; a student would typically have to walk past the majority of Greek life just to get to the building, and on top of this, once inside, have to sit in a crowded waiting room. The Advocacy Center has provided a unique and safe space that students have found welcoming, supportive, and safe. Furthermore, education and outreach programs provided by the Advocacy Center have an additional impact on campus when survivor services are available in the same location. Not only does confidentially become automatic, as an individual’s purpose for going to the Advocacy Center remains unknown to others, The Center is also able to create a unique and powerful group of volunteers in which many have turned their own stories into a passion for educating their peers. A close proximity, physically, of these two resources is critical to the impact of education and outreach programs, for the safety of the students seeking this resource, and for support services to be easily accessible. The Counseling Center is just not equipped to provide the same environment that the Advocacy Center does. In addition, relegating confidential services to a single entry point will isolate individuals and create barriers for coming forward, which, from what we understand is not the goal of yourself or of the University as an entity.
We understand the need to gather reports and data to aid in prevention strategies, as well as the pressure to comply with OCR and Title IX. But meeting these measures does not have to create barriers to accessing services or re-victimize survivors. It is our strong belief that students have already stopped seeking services due to the changes implemented this past academic year, due to concern over confidentially, and out of fear that the survivor lacks a choice in their own personal story. We all personally know survivors who have not and would not seek services through the Counseling Center for these and various other reasons.
We urge you to return the Advocacy Center to full confidential status; to create policies, procedures, and practices that are survivor centric, and to create a campus environment that is supportive of survivors of sexual and relationship violence by placing their rights and needs first. We hope that you would be open to a truly constructive dialogue with students, staff, and faculty, so that we can make a fully informed decision for this campus that best serves the students.
We would welcome the opportunity to speak directly with you about these issues, and offer a different perspective than what you may have already been exposed to. There are many students, staff, and faculty that are very concerned with these changes, and they wish for their voices to be heard. We have started a petition requesting that you reconsider the changes made, and the link will be included at the end of this email. We also have created a blog where we will be posting information and written remarks from members of the SU community regarding these changes.
The Advocacy Center
111 Waverly Ave
Syracuse, NY 13244
Office: (315) 443-2680
Syracuse University Alumni ’13
Syracuse University Alumni ’14