Augustana selects members for sexual assault task force

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - Augustana College has found itself at the center of a national issue, sexual assault. This comes after a senior reported an off-campus sexual assault back at the beginning of January.

Since, students have held events hoping to raise awareness, but the college's administration has also responded.

The President of Augustana, Steve Bahls, released a statement on Jan. 31 outlining initiatives the school was undertaking. One of those included creating and implementing a new task force.

"I will seek nominations from student leadership and the faculty for membership on a task force that will report directly to me," President Bahls wrote in the statement. "This group will continue to meet until I am satisfied that Augustana is addressing the culture and safety on campus and is implementing fair processes."

On Feb. 13, the Provost and Dean of the College, Dr. Gail Summer, sent an email to the campus with an update on the school's initiatives.

"While much work has begun, there is still more on the horizon. Thank you to everyone for your efforts," Dr. Summers wrote.

The email named Dr. Jennifer Popple as the faculty chair of the task force. The other members include:

Faculty: Dr. Scott Gehler, Dr. Carrie Hough, Dr. Eric Stewart

Administrators: Liesl Fowler, Michael Rogers, (one pending confirmation)

Students: Vanessa Dominguez, Anna Pfalzgraf, Kaitlyn Watkins, Ravi Patel

Sheri Curran, legal counsel (liaison to the president’s office)

There is also a webpage outlining the responsibilities of the task force. This includes helping select an "expert" to conduct a review of the college's policies related to sexual assault. These will be compared with federal and state requirements and national best practices.

The task force has also been asked to prepare a report for the President by May 1.

In addition to the task force, other initiatives have progressed as well. Those are also outlined in the email from Dr. Summer.

Back in the initial phases of these plans, TV-6 spoke with one of the school's four Title IX coordinators, Wendy Hilton-Morrow. Morrow said these steps were being taken because the school "heard" their students.

"What we heard is they better want to understand our processies. But also that they want to have a voice on how we are working with Title IX and sexual assault on our campus," said Morrow. "And that's why we're going to make sure students feel included in that. We are setting up a task force of students to be able to meet with Title IX coordinators so they do better understand our processies. We are handling a safety and wellness coordinator who will hopefully lead proactive efforts on our campus around sexual assault but also very important and sometimes related issues like mental health alcohol abuse."

She said they are also working with student organizations.

The email also said the task force will meet during the first week of spring term.

To read the Presidents full statement from Jan. 31 head to Augustana's official webpage.

Attached to this article is a copy of the email sent to students on Feb. 13.

This is a developing story, stick with TV-6 on-air and on our mobile app for updates.