Campus forms committee to address sexual harassment culture

Following an investigation that occurred in early 2018 when a 20-year-old student filed a sexual harassment complaint against a former counselor, Cosumnes River College has since assembled a task force to enact change in college culture.

College President Ed Bush said he is pushing to increase awareness of campus-wide programs aimed toward preventing more incidents from occurring.

“Because of power dynamics, those who are subject to or who witness harassment and assault may feel they have to remain silent because our institution will not support them,” Bush said. “Moving forward, we wanted to set principles about creating an environment where potential victims can know that the institution is going to support them.”

Bush said the Sexual Harassment Task Force, now run by the Cultural Competence Committee, is working to have a greater relationship with Women Escaping a Violent Environment and make their presence known with pop-up booths and student leadership events.

WEAVE offers confidential advocacy and seeks to bring an end to domestic and sexual violence within the Sacramento community, according to their website.

Iris Perez, the 20-year-old student who recently settled a lawsuit against the district, said she wants to see more advertisement about WEAVE and suggested using trained student advocates to aid those who may fear the process of filing a complaint.

“It can be intimidating filing a report at the police station,” Perez said. “You feel very vulnerable.”

English Professor David Weinshilboum, who briefly served on the task force and was Perez’s advocate before and during the investigation, said that while the district is trying to make significant progress, there are still questions that haven’t been answered.

Weinshilboum said he recalled a time where, while working as adjunct faculty, he felt unable to speak up against those who abused their power.

“We need to create systems to allow people to say ‘this isn’t okay’ and not fear losing their career,” Weinshilboum said.

Even though Weinshilboum said he feels the system is flawed, he is “optimistic those on the task force are working to address those issues.”

Faculty now receive mandatory sexual harassment training, and if a similar situation were to occur, Bush said an investigation would continue regardless of whether personnel resigned or not.

 “The thing I felt most was that nobody would trust my word,” Perez said. “There was so much overwhelming support from students and faculty I had never even met. They heard my name, and they supported me.”

Bush said that change lies in being proactive instead of reactive.

“We want a culture where all students can come to college and focus on their education and not their personal safety,” Bush said.