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UAAO Letter on Creating Organizational Systems of Justice and Healing for Survivors

Content Warning: mentions of sexual harassment and sexual assault


August 26, 2020


To our student community at UM:


The United Asian American Organizations (UAAO) Executive Board begins by acknowledging our role in supporting and funding Asian American spaces where sexual assault and sexual harassment transpired and survivors became survivors. Contrary to our mission to support Asian American students, we have overlooked the survivors who have historically been unaddressed. However, acknowledgement of sexual misconduct in our spaces, along with condemnation of sexual assault and sexual harassment, are less than the bare minimum.


In the recent past, UAAO removed an executive board member who perpetrated sexual violence, and we acknowledge the harm of their actions as well as the role that our community. In the process of their removal, UAAO board underwent the University’s “restorative justice” practices and felt that the University did not meet our needs in regards to facilitating justice and healing. This illuminated the need for alternative systems of justice and healing in our organization and communities.


Our community, whether within our executive board, member organizations, and/or broader Asian American communities, is not exempt from scrutiny regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault, and behaviors associated with sexual and gender-based violence. UAAO and our member organizations exist not only as a place to find meaningful relationships, but to also shape individuals’ understandings of racial and ethnic identities, cultures, social justice, and leadership. These are lessons that hold a specific meaning for our predominantly Asian American membership at a predominantly white institution. Sexual assault and sexual harassment in our Asian American spaces deeply wounds what is supposed to be a healing community.



Systems for survivors at the University and our own organizations to safely report, seek justice, and heal, whether those be institutional or legal, have long failed. This is especially the case for survivors that hold BIPOC identities. If institutional and legal systems actually served survivors, a Twitter page like @atumich, that served as its own justice and healing system for predominantly survivors of color, would not exist. This page is more than an outburst — it is a crisis of lacking resources for survivors at the institutional and organizational level. Our space came to fruition due to lacking University resources for Asian American students, and we cannot stop at student survivors. If we aim to meaningfully support Asian American students, then adopting a mindset in our leadership that condemns sexual asssault and sexual harassment must be an assumption, not a controversial statement.


It is the responsibility of UAAO to create alternative justice and healing systems for survivors in our Asian American coalition, and we urge all student leaders to think critically about creating those restorative and, eventually, transformative systems for our/their communities.


For context, restorative justice focuses on rehabilitation within systems to give survivors and perpetrators the opportunity to become involved in resolving a conflict. This framework has already been put forth within a few institutions. Transformative justice, on the other hand, is a framework that reduces harm and responds to violence without engaging in further violence, which institutions like the University of Michigan and the criminal legal system often perpetuate. The origins of transformative and restorative justice practices come from indigenous spaces, such as Anishinaabe, Tlingit, Navajo, Māori, Purépecha, and Igbo cultures. Many abolitionist, disability justice, and BIPOC spaces have practiced transformative justice in order to create effective alternatives to current systems. Teachings of prominent transformative justice leaders Mariame Kaba and Mia Mingus (whose collective, the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, we sourced our pod-mapping activity from), have informed our organizational changes.


If you would like to read more about transformative and restorative justice, please reference this page of resources.


In our interpretation of community accountability, UAAO has reflected on our space’s role in sexual assault and sexual harassment. Thus, we have envisioned how our space can facilitate justice and prioritize survivors as we operate in the University environment.


In order to prioritize survivors and take accountability for the space that perpetrators have taken up in our community, UAAO has provided a constitutional measure to organizationally ensure that justice and healing results from sexual misconduct reports. It is unfortunate that official University sexual misconduct processes have failed to provide action countless times, and this constitutional change provides a procedure that the students running our organization can follow while also navigating University processes if survivors may choose that option.


To student leaders — please consider implementing alternative justice and healing systems, as survivors gain access to move more freely on our campus with each organization that employs them.


Below outlines some of the organizational policy changes that prioritize survivors in the case of allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment in an organization, but please refer to the full constitutional clause for exact language, in depth descriptions of these changes, and all of the steps. We address accountability and healing in various steps; please note that these processes can only occur voluntarily from all parties. Each of these steps are options that survivors have the option to elect, rather than set processes that must occur.


  1. Create a space for survivors to report. UAAO has entrusted survivor intake to our Vice President of Internal Affairs, who will meet with the survivor to see what they need.

  2. Create policy that does not focus on what is the truth, but rather repairing harm. While we have used the language of sexual assault, sexual harassment, perpetrator, and survivor in this statement, the transformative justice framework focuses on repairing harm rather than whether or not the event transpired. Thus, the constitutional clause uses language of allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, harmed parties, and accused parties, as our organization will not perform investigation.

  3. Prepare organizational leadership for the case of sexual misconduct. All of UAAO board will undergo SAPAC training for the case that survivors confide in us.

  4. Ensure that survivors can move freely through your space. Too often, survivors become marginalized in spaces that prioritize the comfort of the perpetrator. If the survivor would like to pursue the removal process of their perpetrator in our space, UAAO has written sexual assault and sexual harassment as a valid reason to ask a board member or a general member to step down and/or avoid UAAO spaces with the survivor.

  5. Facilitate processes to help survivors and perpetrators identify support networks. If survivors and perpetrators would like to participate in pod-mapping, a healing activity adapted from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, then UAAO board will facilitate these activities among individual parties. This organizational process is designed to change the conditions in which harm happens through building networks for individuals.

  6. Identify supportive measures for survivors. Identifying supportive measures can consist of both University and non-University-affiliated actions. On the non-University-affiliated side, UAAO will help survivors identify survivors’ pod-people and/or board members to aid in carrying out tasks such as buying groceries, emailing professors, and providing emotional support as the survivor needs for a period of time.

  7. Demystify University processes as an option, while also acknowledging a history of institutional harm towards survivors and politically marginalized groups. Another option for survivors, which may or may not fall under the transformative justice framework, is to undergo University processes, such as Office of Institutional Equity, for addressing sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

  8. Hold healing spaces for survivors. UAAO will hold healing spaces for Asian American survivors once to twice a semester, and we have delegated the task of organizing this to our vice presidents. While the resources are geared towards Asian American folks, all are welcome.


UAAO has compiled a list of resources for survivors of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault here. These resources include both UM-affiliated and non-UM-affiliated spaces and particular resources intended for Asian American survivors.


We hope that the systems we develop as student organizations can create healing spaces for survivors and accountability practices for community members that do not rely on the university, police, or the criminal legal system, as these institutions regularly and systemically fail to seek true justice and healing for communities.


Signed by organizations that are creating alternative justice and healing infrastructures:


United Asian American Organizations Executive Board

The Indian American Student Association Governing Board

Paani

The Vietnamese Student Association at the University of Michigan

Pakistani Student Association Executive Board

alpha Kappa Delta Phi International Sorority, Inc., Lambda Chapter

The Filipino American Student Association at the University of Michigan

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