New NISG lower cabinet position



The Northern Iowan Student Government (NISG) created and is taking applications for the new lower cabinet director of gender violence.

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

Applications have opened for the newly created Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) position lower cabinet director of gender violence. This position was created on Aug. 29 by executive order, and passed by a unanimous senate vote.

“That’s good news,” said Leah Gutknecht, the Title IX officer and assistant to the president for compliance and management.

“It’s really important to allow students to have a voice and to elevate that voice, Gutknecht said. “We have a lot of students who are passionate about helping in this area, doing more prevention work and making the topic more visible on campus. So I think having this position will be instrumental in giving the topic a voice on our campus.”

The move to create this position on the lower cabinet was initiated by current Speaker of the Senate and Senator for the College of Business Jacob Levang. He said that the lack of work going on inspired him to look into getting someone on NISG directly involved on this topic. He reached out to Gutknecht and Alan Heisterkamp from the Center for Violence Prevention to get feedback on how this position could benefit UNI’s campus as a whole.

“This idea came to me last spring,” Levang said. “We wanted a name that encompassed all gender spectrums [and] all sexuality spectrums.”

Levang was in talks with other NISG members about it including President and Vice President Drew Stensland and Kristen Ahart.

“I knew the facts on how much of a problem this was on college campuses, but I did more research on what happens here at UNI,” Levang said.

According to Levang in an average year, the Title IX office receives around 250 to 300 reports which span the areas of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct.

“A majority of these cases are dealing with some form of sexual misconduct,” Levang said.

Gutknecht was able to confirm that a majority of the reports her office deals with are some level of sexual misconduct, but due to the confidentiality of the reports, she could not disclose specifics.

“If I really wanted one thing to happen in this, I would want more people to be trained in how to intervene in situations that could potentially be sexual assault or domestic violence,” Levang said.

Gutknecht said she is excited to see more collaboration between student government and the sexual violence resources on campus. She said there are some myths regarding sexual misconduct reporting that could be alleviated by more information.

“We still have too many people who think that reporting means that their power to make decisions will be taken away, and that somehow a report launches an investigation or a formal complaint,” Gutknecht said. “And that’s not the case at all. We’re really struggling to get the word out about the importance of reporting and it’s really a helpful opportunity to get people information.”

“It’s been an issue on campus for a long time and I’m happy that we’re finally able to step in and try to make progress on it,” Stensland said. “It’s a difficult issue, it’s an issue that isn’t going to go away.”

Stensland put forward the executive order to create the lower cabinet position. He said the last lower cabinet position created was for graduate student affairs two years ago, and held by former president Hunter Flesch. It is fairly uncommon to create new lower cabinet positions.

“With this addition I think we’re one step closer to making sure that we have all areas on campus covered,” Stensland said.

Levang emphasized that the director of gender violence is never going to be an expert on the issue, but should be an advocate for other student voices.

“We’d love to see the most qualified person take charge,” Levang said.

According to both Stensland and Levang, lower cabinet positions are shaped by the person appointed, and they are able to work at their own pace and pick their own projects.

One project that might be on the radar for whoever is chosen would be the upcoming climate survey coming from the Title IX office. The Know More Climate Survey is going to be promoted everywhere on campus in the coming weeks according to Gutknecht. The purpose of it is to find out what students at UNI think are issues that need to be addressed. Gutknecht hopes to get a lot of survey feedback so that her office will have usable data to help students.

“I think this position is going to really be helpful in helping us focus in on priorities and what we need to do from here on out to respond to that data,” Gutknecht said.

The applications for all other lower cabinet positions closed last Friday, Sept. 7 at 5 p.m., but the application for director of gender violence will remain open until Friday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m.

According to Stensland, adding this position was an easy choice for NISG to make because the issue of sexual assault on campus is a problem all senate members want to improve.

“We can work towards making it a safer campus,” Stensland said. “Where students feel safe walking home at night.”