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University of Maryland students push for mandatory sexual assault education

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Local,Maryland,Education,Matt Connolly,University of Maryland

A student-written proposal to mandate sexual assault education for all University of Maryland undergraduates is one step closer to becoming law of the land in College Park.

The bill, which would require students to attend an educational session during their first semester, was approved by the executive committee of the University Senate, a governing body made up of students, faculty, staff and administrators.

Supporter Andrea Marcin said the idea came from a conversation among female leaders from different parts of campus. A grant that the university's Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program was applying for required mandatory sexual assault education for all incoming students.

"Administrators have been either apathetic or even hostile to the idea and its implementation," Marcin said. "We knew we had to do something."

Currently, the prevention program conducts education sessions -- but groups must request them first. While some classes and student groups attend presentations -- and Greek organizations are required to undergo them -- most of campus is passed over, Marcin said.

"A SARPP presentation for athletes was attended only by a fraction of the teams, not including basketball," she said. "Shouldn't U.Md. athletics ensure that Maryland athletes have this education?"

In the university's 2012 safety report, Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program coordinator Allison Bennett said that one in five women will experience a sexual assault while pursuing their undergraduate degrees. She added that the program has conducted more than 650 consultations since it was started in 2005, though many victims come in multiple times.

The proposal will be reviewed by a university task force on sexual assault and harassment. The group was recently convened for the purpose of reviewing current sexual assault procedures and advising the administration on policy changes that can be made.

If approved there, the entire university senate will vote on whether to send it to University President Wallace Loh for enactment. Loh has approved all measures passed by the senate, according to senate senior coordinator Chelsea Benincasa.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner