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Friday, July 25, 2014

RSVP Center moves from student government to MU’s hands

Director Mark Lucas said the center’s “unprecedented” structure and recent national scrutiny regarding Title IX influenced the decision.

After years of being a Missouri Students Association auxiliary, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center will find a new home as an official part of MU — a move that many believe will help protect the center’s longevity.

By moving the center from MSA to the Department of Student Life, it would be funded by the department with no change in the amount of student fee used, Director of Student Life Mark Lucas said.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said while she had no question of the current MSA administration’s commitment to the center, changing the structure of the center would eliminate any potential shift in priorities.

“Rather than to allow some of the vague (things) that could happen over the years with students and priorities, we felt that the best way to make sure we not only maintain (the center), but that it continues to exist, would be to put it under the university, not student government.”

MSA Senate Speaker Ben Bolin said different executives have had ranging priorities in the past.

“We’ve definitely seen, in years prior … that how a president or vice president perceives (and) how we measure value (especially in tight budget years) makes a difference,” he said.

Lucas said the previous structure of having such a center embedded within student government was something not found in most other universities.

“It (was) something that is rather unprecedented,” he said. “When (the center’s coordinator, Danica Wolf) goes to conferences, there is probably not a university in America that has such a center reporting to student government.”

Wolf could not be reached for a comment.

Lucas said a combination of this unusual structure and “high scrutiny” across the country regarding Title IX mandates, a set of guidelines that prohibits sexual violence, sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex, had finally led to discussions about changing the structure.

Law firm Dowd Bennett, LLP, which was commissioned by the UM System Board of Curators to investigate MU’s handling of Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey’s case, concluded in April that MU did not properly follow Title IX guidelines.

“A crisis leads to greater scrutiny and it leads to a greater chance of implementation of change,” Lucas said. “And that is what’s happening.”

At this time, Lucas said, there are no plans to financially expand the RSVP Center or make any changes to its existing services such as the Green Dot training program.

Scroggs said it is important to maintain the relationship between student leaders and the center during its transition.

“The RSVP Center came out of a grant … received from the U.S. Department of Justice,” she said. “As the grant money was running out, MSA was very committed — and continues to be committed — to RSVP and agreed to fund it.”

Bolin said to continue that relationship, the RSVP Center will continue to attend MSA’s auxiliary meetings and that he hopes the two organizations will co-program events.

“This way, we can continue to get students’ fire into programs for us all,” he said.

Because the center was written as a part of the association’s constitution, MSA Senate passed Resolution 53-49 in a special session on May 6 to authorize the use of a referendum for students to vote on a constitutional amendment.

The referendum was made available for 24 hours, and had 344 votes cast in favor and 28 votes against the change, according to the Board of Elections Commissioners Chairman Derek Chung in an email.

Student Life will begin to fund the RSVP on July, with the start of fiscal year 2015, Lucas said.

Elizabeth Loutfi contributed to this report.

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