Sexual Assault Walk Out

VTPD officers hang around the War Memorial Chapel where the walkout begins, April 30, 2019.

The Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), a student organization that represents the interests of graduate students in the university and communicates with the university to improve quality of life for graduate students, passed multiple resolutions in October during its Senate meeting. One of these resolutions, Resolution 2021-22L, seeks to defund Virginia Tech’s campus police and reallocate funds to important social services.

Amanda Burroughs, a third year sociology Ph.D. student and GPSS Director of Communications, explained that over the summer, she and GPSS President Jack Leff held listening sessions to gauge graduate students’ opinions. Burroughs and Leff found that one of the topics that came up was distrust in campus police.

“This has also come up in the Senate meetings,” Burroughs said. “Graduate students have expressed that when they are a victim of a sexual assault, or a hate crime, or any kind of violence, they actually don’t report and are scared to go to the police, especially if they are marginalized, especially if they are a person of color. They fear that if they go to campus police and report these things that it will somehow be spun that they are the bad guy instead of the victim.”

Referring to the uptick in sexual assaults on campus this semester, Burroughs believes that escalating police presence is not a solution to the problem.

“Increasing police, it just isn't going to work, and there is a lot of literature about that — a lot of research about that — which you can see in the appendices of the resolution,” Burroughs said. “We would like to reallocate that money to groups such as the Women’s Center that can actually help victims of sexual assault.”

The GPSS also advocates for a living wage for graduate students. One of the things that drove the GPSS to create resolutions for better student rights was a cost of living report published when the GPSS was still the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA). The report found that after cost-of-living expenses were paid, the average graduate student had $20.01 left in a month to live on, spurring the GPSS’ goals of obtaining more financial security for graduate students.

“I definitely would say (the GPSS has) enhanced my experience so far,” said Andrew Alexander, a first year Ph.D. student studying political science. “It’s not an equal balance of power, being a graduate student, and so it can be difficult to voice concerns you have. Having that body there that is an outlet there to advocate for us is really nice.”

Students can learn more about the GPSS and stay updated on the resolutions at gpss.vt.edu.

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