Senate passes resolution to hold student organizations accountable in cases of sexual misconduct

Anna Canizales

UT Senate members regathered for a virtual assembly Thursday to discuss a resolution in support of standardizing accountability regarding sexual misconduct in student organizations. The resolution passed in the Senate and was passed by Student Government on Tuesday.

The goal of the resolution is to hold student organization leaders at UT accountable on issues of sexual harassment, misconduct and violence, and implement safety training and a zero-tolerance policy for officers and members of student organizations.

The resolution was authored by Tanek Ballachanda, Grace Young, and Rebecca Lin, who are members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Mechanical engineering senior Ballachanda said the group has concerns about ways that sexual misconduct is handled by the University and the campus community.

He said a member came forward with concerns about one of the officer’s sexual misconduct, and the president of ASME told members not to discuss the issue because it could make the organization look bad. The member who was victimized ended up feeling forced to leave the community, Ballachanda said.

“We send a message that we care more about the image of organizations than about the safety of the student community, and that’s not what we want to see,” Ballachanda said. “We’d like to address these issues when it comes to student leaders and hopefully standardize what happens across the board.”

Mechanical engineering junior Young said the proposed amendments to the constitution include increased safety training, requiring safety information be provided to organization members and a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct.

“Our definition of zero tolerance is not punitive in nature. It is preventative and centered around maintaining a safe environment for students,” Young said. “We just want organizations to make it clear that sexual misconduct won’t be tolerated or condoned, and we want to clarify and reinforce existing University policies. We would like to clarify for org leaders that sexual misconduct, just like any other form of abuse, is a valid cause against consideration for officer appointments.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Lin said the group is currently speaking with University administrators and aims to amend the constitution to include the resolution later this week.

“With the weight of not just the experiences behind our words but also (Senate’s) approval, our initiatives will have the momentum they need to be implemented,” Lin said. “It will have a far-reaching effect.”