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Campus should learn from MyVoice survey results

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OCTOBER 05, 2018

The My Voice survey was administered to the greater campus community last spring to aggregate data on student, staff and faculty experiences regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, issues. The survey was the first of its kind because of the diversity of its 15,000 participants.

The Action Planning Team, composed of several students and administrator stakeholders around the issue, spent the last two months digesting the survey results data and translating it into implementable action items they are hoping to see actualized over the next two years. These findings affect every single Berkeley student, undergraduates and graduates alike, because the survey findings cover folks’ experience as students, staff, GSIs, research assistants and as general members of our campus community.

Last Tuesday, Sharon Inkelas, the special faculty adviser to the chancellor on all issues related to SVSH, issued an email announcement to the campus community on the key findings and recommendations from the survey. If you were planning to ignore the email, think again. And in case you already have, go retrieve it from deep within your inbox.

The survey, in its origin, and many of its proposed recommendations, came as a result of student mobilization, advocacy and pressuring of the administration and UCOP to do more and to do better. While we have come a long way, our fight for SVSH equity, policy reform and education will need to continue. When students, staff and campus organizers walk into these rooms to fight these fights, it is crucial for them to have data to back their claims. Data is powerful, because it forces administration to listen. The My Voice survey provides students this power to inform their advocacy and outreach.

The survey also challenges our social norms and common misconceptions around SVSH. Most of us think we ask for consent but don’t think others do; Most of us consider that we hold healthy attitudes around sexual harm but don’t think the same of our peers. How can we bridge these gaps? Most of us understand that sexual violence is not a result of miscommunication, drugs or alcohol. Most of us believe we reject victim-blaming stereotypes. How can we celebrate how far we’ve come while productively thinking about where we have left to go? This suggests that social norm remediation is desperately needed. Our campus needs to promote and teach healthy consent norms and intimacy norms in our clubs, in our orientation spaces and in academic settings. Community leaders must adequately use the survey results to inform how they facilitate dialogue and productively increase awareness on campus.

My Voice should not be seen as a solution, but rather a tool. The survey and its results are an aggregation of more than 15,000 experiences, including those of undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff and facilities workers. These narratives have different experiences, different identities and move through life uniquely. But all of these narratives are tied to the Berkeley story and community. Our campus, our institution, our school spirit is the common fabric intertwining respondents of this survey. Let the results ground your work, inform your work and energize your spaces as we seek to rectify problematic social norms, uplift survivors in our communities and promote cultures of acceptance and healing.

Sophie Bandarkar is a senior studying political economy and is the ASUC student advocate. Zach Carter is a junior studying political science and is an ASUC senator.

OCTOBER 04, 2018