A Letter to the Student Body of Catholic University

Guest Commentary
Chris Woodside
Class of 2016

This semester, we begin to draw closer to a solemn anniversary. Some of you in all likelihood know this, others, including the freshman, are likely unaware. In my final year at The Catholic University of America, I had the great honor to represent students in their student government. While the body as a whole was toxic, meanspirited, and full of self-interested manipulating forces, there was a sliver of good will to be found. One such example of this were my cosponsors on the bill that I authored, and has remained close to my heart ever since.

During my junior year at CUA, the Federal Government and President Barack Obama placed Catholic University on a list of schools being investigated for violating Title IX laws in response to sexual assault accusations. I saw it as my mandate while a member of the student government to address this, and this led to the birth of a bill that would have created The Committee on Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention. This bill would have given students a voice in how the university keeps students safe. Since this bill was first introduced and voted down by your representatives, there have been several false accusations against me, supporters of the bill, and the bill itself. Today, as an alumni, I intend to set the record straight.

As many students have claimed, this would have “inserted myself” into the personal situation of those who claimed they were assaulted. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, students who served on this committee would have no direct contact with accusers, and would instead focus on general practices by the school, such as improving DPS response time to blue light calls. The truth is, those who claim this bill was merely a way for the committee to intrude on these victimized students was fabricated by opponents of the bill as a way to claim that the bill was violating Title IX and could not be implemented as a result. This is, factually, a lie. The fact that no source, from what I could identify, has corrected this is egregious.

Perhaps the most telling part of this saga (pun intended) was the pure defensiveness of those who voted no. I felt, following the final vote on the bill, that the students of this university had a right to know that their representatives failed to protect them. As a result, I released the roll vote that had been done on the bill to the students so all members of the student body could see who voted against this bill. Several members of student government who voted no, including the two who now have been elected, albeit questionably, as President and Vice President of SGA, complained that this vote should not have been released, and that for some graduating seniors it could cost them job opportunities. To those who felt their career was jeopardized because of their vote, I say good. None of the supporters of the bill who voted yes had this concern. Those who were concerned were concerned for good reason, because for whatever reason they voted, they failed to provide additional protection to students on campus.

I believe there may be a sad reality that many students at this school wish was not true. The reality is that sexual assault happens at every university. Catholic University is not excluded from this awful trend. This piece is not meant as an attack. I do believe in the bottom of my heart that every single person I served with on student government, no matter how misguided and selfish they may have been when they voted, value the safety and security of all students at CUA. While intentions do matter, so does judgment. This piece was to correct the record that was fabricated by students who served on student government in an effort to defeat this bill and attack my credibility. I stand by my decision to author this bill and my vote in favor of it. I chose to look out for the students of this university, while others chose to look out for themselves.

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