Kavanaugh, Title IX and Sexual Assault Prevention on Campus

On April 16th, George Mason Student Government hosted a town hall to address sexual assault prevention on campus and beyond. The night began with emotional stories from survivors, followed by a Q&A with members of the university’s administration. Much of the conversation was about the hiring of Brett Kavanaugh and the feelings that it evokes in survivors.

Speakers on the panel included President Àngel Cabrera, Senior Associate Dean of the Antonin Scalia Law School Allison Price, and Chief of Mason Police Carl Rowan, amongst other members of George Mason University’s administration who attempted to answer questions from both the student body and the public.

Whether or not you think Kavanaugh is guilty, you must admit that the timing of his hiring is incredibly poor. Coinciding with the announcement that Kavanaugh would be teaching a study abroad trip for the law school, Mason’s Title IX Coordinator announced her resignation from George Mason University to pursue a new position. Additionally, there have been several reports of sexual assault and/or harassment on campus recently.

Related: Antonin Scalia Law School Hired Brett Kavanaugh As Visiting Professor

The university claims that it is doing everything in its immediate power to eradicate sexual assault on campus, but are they? The Title IX office is still searching for a new coordinator and there are not enough counselors in the Counseling and Psychological Services office to accommodate our ever-growing student body. If it was not already obvious that we need better resources on campus before, it is now after hearing the testimonies of survivors at the town hall recounting stories of being one of two people in a support group or having their cases dismissed because of their sexuality.

My question is this: Why Brett Kavanaugh? Why not any other supreme court justice, conservative, liberal or moderate? The decision seems like it was not well evaluated by the administration, particularly considering how adamant they seem to be about making students feel safer. In a statement on his blog, President Cabrera said, “I respect the views of people who disagreed with Justice Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation due to questions raised about his sexual conduct in high school. But he was confirmed and is now a sitting Justice. The law school has determined that the involvement of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice contributes to making our law program uniquely valuable for our students. And I accept their judgment. This decision, controversial as it may be, in no way affects the university’s ongoing efforts to eradicate sexual violence from our campuses. We remain firmly committed to this goal, and I want to encourage students who feel strongly about sexual assault prevention at Mason to continue to raise their voices and help us move forward. We have made significant progress but have much more to do and we need the involvement of our entire community to continue to move forward. I’m encouraged that reports of sexual and interpersonal violence to both the Student Support and Advocacy Center and the Title IX office are up, which indicates survivors feel safer to speak up. The increased reports are putting pressure on our existing resources in both investigating cases and providing support to survivors, and we need to accelerate investments in these areas.” Having a Supreme Court justice does make this program “uniquely valuable” but, again, there are eight other people sitting with him who could have been chosen instead, not gotten this backlash and given students a unique experience. After the allegations against Kavanaugh, he was not invited back to teach at Harvard Law. Why isn’t George Mason University holding the same standards as a prestigious, ivy league institution?  

Over 10,000 people have signed a petition containing a list of demands, including that George Mason “terminate and void all contracts and affiliation with Brett Kavanaugh”. The university has agreed to most of the terms but seems to be standing firm in its decision to keep Kavanaugh despite the backlash they have and continue to receive.