Friday, March 18, 2011

UC Regents Agree to Investigate Campus Sexual Assault


Katrina Socco
Coordinator, AF3IRM - SF Bay Area

Women Force UC System To Stop Silencing Victims

San Francisco, CA (March 16, 2011)—AF3IRM and the Mariposa Center for Change, the lead conveners of the statewide Justice for Laya Coalition took action at the UC Regents Board meeting to demand that UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng be removed from his position. On October 3, 2010 Cheng sexually battered Laya, a UC student in his off campus apartment. Speakers representing the Justice for Laya coalition addressed the UC Board of Regents this morning, followed by a vigil where members of the coalition wore gags to represent how victims of campus sexual assault have continued to be silenced and shirts with the phrase, "I am Laya." to signify that all women are victimized by Cheng's actions.

The Justice for Laya coalition demanded the following: 1) Removal of Cheng as UC Student Regent; 2) Support of the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct Decision as a step in restoring Legal Justice for Laya and; 3) Funding and support for UC Women’s Centers. After 17 public comments from a variety of other advocacy groups present, President of the UC Regents Board, Mark Yudof shocked the audience by solely responding to the Justice for Laya Campaign. He stated that the UC Regents “... take this very seriously. I have asked our Chief of Compliance and Audit to monitor the campus review and I'll be referring this issue to the Committee on Governance to take more action.”

The Justice for Laya Coalition formed on 5 UC campuses when Laya turned to the Mariposa Center for help. As UC Berkeley student and personal friend of Laya, Vanita Mistry informed the UC Regents, “Laya had to go outside the university system to find help and support because women’s centers are under-funded. She has had to tell her story over and over to police and school officials without any indication that they believe or support her. “ Though sexual assault remains the second highest reported crime at UC campuses, efforts to prevent this crime have not decreased campus rape statistics in 15 years.

Annalisa Enrile, Board President of the Mariposa Center and professor at USC, offered a possible solution, while addressing the UC Regents: “In this time of deep budget cuts, let me use the language we are familiar with. We cannot afford to lose more of our students, more of our women to violence. We cannot afford 150,000 college women being assaulted every year. We cannot afford to have a sexual batterer represent the needs of one of the most prestigious university systems in the country. We cannot afford Cheng…and that is the most important CUT that you can make today “

A recent ruling by the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct has confirmed Student Regent Cheng responsible for these charges. AF3IRM – SF Bay Area Coordinator, Katrina Socco concluded, “The UC Regents need to follow suit, and hold Cheng accountable for his crime. There is nothing that Jesse would like more, than for us to shut up and go away. We aren’t going anywhere until justice is served.”

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