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Students vent frustrations, offer solutions on sexual misconduct

SGA joint session hosts LU administrators to address, listen to on-campus concerns

LU President Jaime Taylor introduces panelists at the SGA Joint Session, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ball Room of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick
LU President Jaime Taylor introduces panelists at the SGA Joint Session, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ballroom of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick

Warning: This story contains mention of sexual assault and rape.

Editor’s note: Some of the names of students who spoke during the meeting could not be verified and are labeled in the story as “student.”

The Student Government Association hosted its monthly joint session meeting, Oct. 13, and unlike most general joint sessions, the meeting centered around the topic of sexual misconduct on campus.

The issue arose after fliers and posters were put up around campus accusing the university of not handling sexual misconduct cases accurately. The fliers were also posted to social media which gained additional traction, leading to SGA and the university administration to release statements.

In its Sept. 29 statement, SGA wrote that they “stand unequivocally with all survivors of sexual assault and misconduct and remain committed to helping cultivate a safe and welcoming environment for all students.” The statement also said that difficult conversations about the topic would “raise awareness and dismantle the culture of silence and stigma surrounding sexual assault.”

The university’s Sept. 29 statement said that Lamar “does not tolerate sexual misconduct and condemns all forms of sexual harassment,” and that “eradicating such misconduct when it occurs and remediating the effects of such behavior” is an ongoing commitment to the student body. The university said in their statement that the Title IX process is “robust” and complies with federal regulations and that Lamar will “provide its support to those impacted by sexual misconduct.”

Tiffany Tran, SGA president, said the emotions expressed by students on campus and social media after the fliers were posted prompted SGA to dedicate their October joint session to the topic, so that students could speak directly with administrators about their concerns and ask questions.

After SGA went through usual joint session business, LU President Jaime Taylor gave his administrator comments where he said that having conversations about sexual misconduct is the first step toward preventing future occurrences.

Taylor then introduced the panelists who would speak and answering student questions: Vicki McNeil, vice president of student engagement; Brenda Dixon, LU Title IX coordinator; Sgt. Yatara Martin of the LU Police Department; and Rodna Willett, a licensed professional counselor from the Student Health Center. Also present was panel moderator Shelbe Rodriguez, LU public affairs manager.

Taylor did not answer student questions or respond to student statements throughout the session.

Before the open forum began, each panelist described their roles in relation to sexual misconduct reporting and investigation.

McNeil detailed the history of the Clery Act of 1990 which requires universities to report and disclose information about crimes on their campuses. She explained the university’s responsibility to educate students on sexual misconduct and issues of consent, pointing out that all students who go through new student orientation watch videos concerning those issues, as well as drug and alcohol use, and what role substances play in sexual assault on campus. McNeil also described security measures that are in place in the dorms, including automatic-locking room doors.

Willett described the services that the Student Health Center provides including counseling. Sgt. Martin then described LUPD’s role on campus and the capability of its force, which has more than 30 state-licensed police officers who have the authority to enforce local, state and federal laws. In addition to police officers, LUPD also has Campus Safety Officers who can escort students across campus, in addition to other responsibilities.

McNeil said that Lamar University has the largest police force out of any institution in the Texas State University System, including that of Texas State University which has more than twice as many students as Lamar.

Dixon went through the Title IX reporting and investigation process which was updated federally in August 2020.

Vicki McNeil, vice president of student engagement, right, talks to attendees about university sexual misconduct policy and awareness at the SGA Joint Session, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ballroom of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick
Vicki McNeil, vice president of student engagement, right, talks to attendees about university sexual misconduct policy and awareness at the SGA Joint Session, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ballroom of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick

Students did not begin speaking until an hour into the session.

The first student to speak was Chakayla Beavers, Houston junior, who said that she felt “disgusted and disrespected” at how she was treated by the university as a student and sexual assault victim.

“I would never have imagined that I would be one of the many girls added to the big stack of paperwork sitting on Brenda Dixon’s desk,” she said. “And quite frankly, I’m embarrassed. I put my faith, hard work, time and money into a school that doesn’t even care about my safety, let alone my mental state.”

Beavers said that instead of holding students accountable for their actions, the school would rather “victim shame us, give us the run around and tear us down completely until we turn a blind eye to the root of the problem.”

“I’m done sitting around waiting for one of you sitting in those chairs up there to actually do something and not just send Title IX emails to make it seem like you actually care,” she said. “You will never understand the pain, trauma and fearfulness every woman goes through until your daughter or granddaughter is put in the same situation.”

Beavers said she believes that Lamar is currently not doing enough to protect its students, and that there is a lack of visual resources available across campus, especially in the dorms.

“It’s crazy it took a poster board to bring all of the administration down here to actually address our concerns, like this hasn’t been an ongoing issue,” she said. “You all need to go home, check your morals, and remember what each student has said here today, because if you don’t want to hold students accountable, we’re going to hold you accountable.”

In response to Beavers’ statement, Rodriguez called on Willett to remind everyone of the counseling services the SHC provides.

“If there is a crisis, then by all means come in to the counseling center and we will try and get you in as soon as possible,” Willett said.

The second student, who was unable to be identified by the UP, to speak asked how students can be sure that the Title IX regulations are followed correctly and said she believes the regulations are “not taken into consideration” a lot of times.

Dixon reiterated the updated Title IX regulations flow chart and said the previous Title IX process differed in when hearings could be held. Previously, hearings were held after a conduct decision had been made, whereas they now happen prior.

The student referenced McNeil’s earlier remarks about the automatic-locking doors saying that they do not always close the way they are supposed to.

“We do have problems with that,” McNeil said. “Your individual room door to the hallway is supposed to lock automatically. If you find that it does not, you need to contact housing so that they can (fix it). They’re older doors and some of them don’t completely shut. You should always check it, but yes, they should be locking.”

The next student asked what other students are supposed to do when they lose faith in the system and don’t feel like they have an outlet to express their concerns.

“We don’t necessarily have a constant microphone,” he said.

McNeil said students should feel assured that everything is handled the way it should because multiple people look at each situation, such as in the case of a reported incident of sexual misconduct. Dixon added that the entire Title IX process is on the LU website, and that there is a 69-page booklet that explains each step.

The next student to speak asked what was being done on campus to show that rape is wrong, instead of just telling people to protect themselves.

“As females growing up in school, we’re taught to hide ourselves because we’re blamed for it. So, dress codes for example, growing up, it’s always aimed at women, and you can’t wear this because boys get distracted,” she said. “I don’t want to use the term ‘victim blaming’ because it gets thrown around, but it feels like victim blaming because (of) what Dr. McNeil was saying at the very beginning of the session, about, ‘You can do this to protect yourself to not get raped.’

“But what about telling people not to rape? Like, I feel like all of the prevention is aimed at victims — ‘Don’t do this.’ We can do everything right (and) it can still happen. It’s hard not to get emotional because, as a female, it’s scary. It’s terrifying to walk campus alone at night because there’s always that possibility. You can do everything right, it can still happen.”

Dixon said that training modules for sexual assault prevention are sent out to all students to educate them on what is right and what is wrong. She said she is talking with SGA leaders to figure out more ways to educate students, such as hosting town hall meetings.

Beavers’ mother then spoke to the panel about how her daughter had used all the resources the panelists kept mentioning, yet said her daughter’s assailant, whom she said had been deemed guilty by the university, is still living on campus.

“His sanction was he cannot participate in any school groups like the ambassadors, and extracurricular activities,” she said. “That’s what you’re telling your students, that the sexual assailant was sanctioned and this is what he has to do because he committed a crime, and this what you’re telling them, that this is how you’re going to handle it.”

McNeil said that they would not discuss any specific misconduct cases. Information on Title IX proceedings is not made public.

“If it is a criminal matter, university police does put it together, packages it and gives it to the (District Attorney),” McNeil said. “It is then up to the DA to make a determination on whether to pursue the (case).”

Beavers’ mother responded saying that what McNeil said was not true.

“The Title IX coordinator investigated, the department investigated everything. They deemed the assailant as guilty,” she said. “LUPD, they threw it out and said that the assailant would not make a statement. So, those things and accusations that you’re saying, they are not true and I am here to tell you.”

Dixon said she would not go into detail about a specific case but Beavers said the conversation was not about the case, it was about the resources on campus not providing intended services.

“You say your department is available. Be available in your job and let’s go forward,” she said. “Why do you have your students living in the dorms feeling like they’ve been assaulted again because you have not removed the individuals that are being sexual predators? If you want to protect your young ladies, you want to protect your students, protect them. Get these guys out of here.”

There was no further comment from the panel.

The next student who spoke also said that the university is currently not doing enough and that the administration is not listening to students concerns.

“I understand that there’s protocols, but what will it take for y’all to understand the fact that the protocols that y’all have in place are not working,” she said. “The chain of command that y’all say that y’all have is not being fully communicated properly. It’s not about who you go to, it’s more about the action of the person that you’re talking to is willing to take.”

She asked what steps the administration would take to end the stigma against victims of sexual assault and if the trainings that the panel referenced multiple times would be made mandatory.

There was no response to her question.

The last student to speak was SGA College of Education and Human Development Senator Caleb Love, who said that he felt some of the administrators who spoke were not being genuine.

“When you’re giving Title IX presentations or you’re giving presentations about LUPD, you’re reading it off the slides like you don’t even really know it. So, how do you expect us to believe that the system we’ve got in place is actually working and everybody’s following these guidelines when you barely even know it,” he said. “Everybody redirecting us to websites and pamphlets — the reason you’re here is to give us that in-person feeling, that relatability, and we’re still not getting that even in this time when we’re supposed to get that.”

Love said that there were no real solutions that came out of the session, but that that was something everyone needed to work towards for the next joint session in November.

Students and administrators gathered for the monthly SGA Joint Session meeting concerning the topic of sexual misconduct on campus, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ballroom of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick
Students and administrators gathered for the monthly SGA Joint Session meeting concerning the topic of sexual misconduct on campus, Oct. 13, in the Live Oak Ballroom of the Setzer Student Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick


Following the session, the University Press interviewed administrators and attendees. Tran said that she thought the session was productive and that there were things SGA could immediately act on with the administration, such as putting up more visuals in dorm halls constantly reminding students that sexual misconduct is not OK.

“I think positive change will come from it — it’ll probably take time though, lots of approval down the line, but we’re hoping that we can get it done within our term,” she said. “We have monthly meetings with the president. So, we’re going to continue advocating for the concerns that students have brought up and make sure that they get addressed.”

Taylor said he also thought the session was productive and a starting point in addressing these issues on campus.

“I’m hoping, in the future, it doesn’t rise to the point that we have (this situation), I really hope that we can create stronger dialogue between students and administration, and they feel like things are being addressed whenever those questions come up,” he said.

Regarding Lamar’s role in trying to change rape culture on college campuses, Taylor said that culture is hard to change in one location and that it has to change nationally.

McNeil said Lamar has already started changing college campus rape culture through the videos that are shown to new students at orientation.

“We talk about rape and we talk about consent, and that in years past has not really been talked about,” she said. “You can consent to do this but you can say no to this. It’s not all or nothing.”

McNeil said she thinks the suggested posters will probably serve as a good reminder to students. As far as having classes geared towards male students, McNeil said male students probably wouldn’t attend them and the school could not require them because of credit limits. She said those things would need to happen on a volunteer-type basis.

“(That’s) why I suggested Cardinal Communities, because — there is male and female — but they are freshmen,” she said. ”Over time, you try to change that culture. Can we do these one-shot types of things to fraternities? Yes, we can. It works better if you have a male deliver that message to males. So, we can do that as well. We have not done a lot of that, but we could start.”

McNeil said there were some actionable things that came out of the session that the university will try to do. McNeil offered a response to Beavers’ statement saying she can’t discuss the situation.

“I’m not going to because it’s not fair to the other student,” she said. “So, she’ll always be frustrated. She’ll always be angry. She did go through the process. She just didn’t like the outcome of the process. But, there’s some things we can do and will do.”

Beavers said this was the first joint session she’s attended and she wanted the administration to listen to student voices. She said she did not feel that the session was productive, but was glad to see that many students attended and spoke up.

“I would’ve hoped that Dr. Jaime Taylor would have at least spoken, or at least any of the administration (would) show any type of emotion towards the students, because there’s a lot going on and you can tell by their faces and by them not saying anything that they do not care,” she said.

Beavers said she’s done everything she can but still doesn’t feel as though the administration is listening to her. She wants there to be posters around campus explaining consent and telling students that they will be punished if they sexually assault someone.

“I just want to see much more than what they’re doing right now,” she said.

SGA joint session meetings are held each month. The next joint session is scheduled for November.

To report a sexual misconduct incident to Title IX or for more policy information, visit

For more information or to schedule a counseling appointment, call 880-8466 or visit the Student Health Center portal under the student engagement section on the Lamar website.

This story was compiled through recorded interviews and a recording of the joint session.

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