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UNC Students Lead Town Hall To Address Sexual Assault

Cole del Charco
Panelists from UNC student government and University departments discussed how the University can improve on findings in a recent report.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government held a town hall to discuss campus sexual assault, and what's being done to combat it on campus. It was a direct response to a campus-climate survey released last week by the American Association of Universities on sexual assault.

UNC-Chapel Hill was one of the 33 schools that participated in the survey. Among other things, the report showed that more than 20 percent of UNC students have experienced forceful or non-consensual sexual touching or penetration.

About 40 students attended the town hall, held in one of the largest lecture halls on campus at the Genome Sciences building. It was a small but engaged gathering, and one where the students largely led the discussion.

"We're trying to offer a range of resources, but we also need students to tell us what they want from us," said Ashton Martin, UNC-CH student body president. "And so, that's what we're actively trying to figure out right now."

The student government organized the event as part of its effort to open dialogue with students and gain input in what the university can do better in preventing and responding to sexual assault on campus.

Panelists included staff from the university's Title IX office, student counseling, and a spokesperson from UNC-CH Police.

Credit Cole del Charco / WUNC
Students answering a question during a question and answer section of the town hall.

Martin said that even though the response by the university has mostly been behind the scenes so far, she thinks administrators are taking steps to address the results of the survey.

"There are lots of departments, not even just the ones represented here tonight, that are very interested and kind of dialed in into figuring out what we need to do about this," Martin said.

Several panelists said more resources could be used to reach more students, ranging from support for victims to information on intervention practices. 

But many of the students in attendance said their peers don't take the required online training modules seriously, and simply skim through them. 

"It just seems like this isn't a high priority," said Avni Singh, a first-year student. "And with the survey results, it definitely, definitely should be."

Student government and the university are planning more town halls to gather student input.

Cole del Charco is an audio producer and writer based in Durham. He's made stories for public radio's All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Marketplace. Before joining Due South, he spent time as a freelance journalist, an education and daily news reporter for WUNC, and a podcast producer for WFAE in Charlotte.
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