‘It is really starting to feel like no one is safe here’: Sac State students demand action at town hall
The student-led forum was in response to several sexual assaults on and near campus
November 17, 2022
Content Warning: The following story mentions incidents of sexual assault
A student-led discussion was hosted in the University Union Thursday morning regarding the incidents of sexual assault on and near campus this semester.
The discussion was led by first-year student and political science major Michael Lee-Chang in the Redwood Room and featured Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen, Vice President of Student Affairs Ed Mills, Police Chief Chet Madison Jr. and WEAVE Confidential Campus Advocate Laura Swartzen.
Story continues below the image.
All seats at the event were taken, with more standing outside of the doors to watch. Over 80 participants joined the Zoom session of the town hall.
Some students who spoke during the event said they were disappointed with how administration has handled the sexual assaults.
One such student was fourth-year political science major Taylor Lenay, who said the process of filing a report is not supportive to victims on campus.
“I think [we need to talk about] how humiliating the actual reporting of the crime is because it puts all the weight on the victim and it seems like nothing ever gets done…to solve the issue,” Lenay said. “[They do] an ongoing investigation that takes several months, and then to be told that staffers can’t do anything about it — it’s so demeaning. I just feel defeated.”
Various students said they wanted to hear less about reactions from administration and more about the action the campus is taking. However, for students like first-year communications major Kai Levato, these words are not enough.
“I’m tired of your apologies and your acknowledgments,” Levato said. “You’re here. It’s safe to say that you’re sorry. I don’t want to hear it anymore. I want to hear what you’re going to do.”
I’m tired of your apologies and your acknowledgments. You’re here. It’s safe to say that you’re sorry. I don’t want to hear it anymore. I want to hear what you’re going to do.”
— Kai Levat0
When a student in the audience called for more security to access campus facilities, like adding card readers to buildings, Nelsen said Sac State cannot because it is a “public university,” but said the university does need more camera surveillance.
Alexis Jimenez, a student who works with the anthropology department, said she also felt angry and sad over how administration and the police department were handling the situation.
“I want the administrators to know: I hope you feel bad when you eat your lunch, because this is how students feel everyday,” Jimenez said.
I want the administrators to know: I hope you feel bad when you eat your lunch, because this is how students feel everyday.”
— Alexis Jimenez
Some concerns students brought up included how dark the campus becomes at night—a factor exacerbated by daylight savings time, the lack of security and the lack of faculty present at the Title IX office.
Overall, students like Lenay called for more action than condolences from campus administration.
“I’d like to see actual repercussions for sexual assault,” Lenay said. “It’s like the victim gets all the blame and all of the responsibility is put on them. And then the person that assaulted them just gets away with it. Nothing happens.”
Kaitlyn Hernandez, a second year student and survivor, said she received her first campus-wide notification of sexual assault her freshman year. From that moment on, she said she hasn’t felt safe on campus.
Now in her second year, Hernandez said she doesn’t see police officers patrolling campus anymore and wasn’t surprised to hear about the recent cases of sexual assault.
“It is really starting to feel like no one is safe here,” Hernandez said. “My question to [administration] is: ‘What is going to be next to stop it?’”
While administration said they were working to increase security and raise awareness of campus services, some students said they felt like their questions were not answered adequately.
Third-year environmental studies major Jamie Finn said she came into the event hoping to get her questions answered and learn about the support systems the campus already had in place. However, she said she left feeling like true answers were uncertain.
“I feel like a lot of things were not completely answered,” Finn said after the forum. “I heard a lot of ‘in progress’ kind of things.”
Sac State Chief of Police Chet Madison Jr. said aside from increasing patrols on campus, he will consider what the students brought up during the event.
“We’re gonna look at all the recommendations and suggestions that were offered to not only the police department, but administration,” Madison said.
After hearing from victims and students close to victims, Nelsen faced the audience and said the university is hiring a second confidential advocate to handle sexual assault cases on campus.
“I really do hear the pain in your voices and the pain in your experiences,” Nelsen said. “That pain is not right.”
The town hall happened after a string of sexual assaults on and around campus this semester.
The most recent incident occurred Nov. 7 when a woman was videotaped without consent in a restroom at the University Union. The suspect was photographed while leaving the scene.
On Oct. 8, a female student was assaulted in the quad outside of Eureka Hall. The man approached the female student asking for a hug, according to Sac State communications.
When she refused, the man hugged her and rubbed his genitals against her.
Sac State Police arrested the suspect, charged him with a misdemeanor and released him.
According to Madison, this suspect has been banned from campus.
Additional reporting by Emma Hall.