New MSA task force focuses on sexual assault

The task force will hold its first meeting at the beginning of November.

MSA meets for their first forum of the year in Fraser Hall on Sept. 19.

Carter Blochwitz, Daily File Photo

MSA meets for their first forum of the year in Fraser Hall on Sept. 19.

by Max Chao

The Minnesota Student Association at the University of Minnesota charged a task force to develop new strategies to battle sexual assault on campus.

The group comprises members of various communities around campus, and hopes to lead discussion and action related to sexual assault.

“The goal is to … maintain a climate that supports survivors, that believes survivors, that promotes healthy, consensual relationships and beyond,” said Trish Palermo, MSA president and co-director of the task force. 

Sexual assault activism was a key platform item for Palermo and student body vice president Erik Hillesheim’s 2016 campaign.

The group is made of two parts: an advisory council, which compiles input from various communities around campus and brainstorms for new ideas, and a working task force, which will focus on implementing those ideas.

While the group is structured within MSA, it will include non-MSA members as well.

“The idea is that we make sure that we include as many voices as possible that are impacted by this problem,” said Mina Kian, MSA representative to the Board of Regents and co-director of the task force. “We want to be very inclusive to groups that have historically been left out of those conversations.”

Palermo and Kian met with sexual assault consultant Alan Berkowitz earlier this semester and discussed strategies the task force can build on, Kian said.

“Preventing sexual assault is a long-term effort that requires a lot of coordinated measures. It’s very important that an institution is not looking for a magic bullet,” Berkowitz said. 

The task force will also collaborate with existing groups on campus that deal with sexual assault, like the Aurora Center, Kian said.

“We will make sure that we’re coordinating with all of the major groups on campus that deal with this and make sure that we’re giving them a voice,” she said. 

The creation of the group will be accompanied by an awareness campaign that will launch during the spring semester, Kian said.  

The first meeting will be held at the beginning of November, but it may be pushed back to allow more interested students to join, she said.