By Emma Kaufman, Contributing Writer
TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault, trauma, violence
In many ways, St. Mary’s College of Maryland is a paradise for students. The campus is small, but comforting. Many class discussions are intimate and enlightening. The student body is so familiar with each other that it’s nearly impossible to walk down the path without saying “hello” to at least one person you know well. But our school, like many colleges, has a problem with sexual assault. The administration is aware of this and has implemented a new sexual misconduct policy this past semester. They have sought student opinion through campus-wide surveys to gauge the sentiments regarding how sexual assault is handled on campus. They have also hired a Title IX coordinator to oversee all issues pertaining to sexual assault of students at St. Mary’s.
But this process by which these changes were made lacks transparency in many ways. There are many questions that remain to be answered. Some of these include: How should we raise awareness to combat sexual assault on campus? Are there better approaches than The Clothesline Project? Who is the new Title IX coordinator? What is the new sexual misconduct policy? Why is the First Responder Caller Hotline no longer permitted to maintain caller anonymity? How are we training students, faculty, staff and administration to prevent sexual assault on campus? Is it effective? How might previous mistakes made in handling issues of sexual assault on campus inform our action for the future?
There are some methods by which people on campus have attempted to raise awareness about this issue, such as the Take Back the Night event that allows survivors to speak about their experiences. Another way to empower survivors is the Clothesline Project, which is a series of t-shirts depicting the stories of those who have experienced sexual assault. These t-shirts are hung in stairwell to the Great Room the Campus Center each year, with the trigger warnings at each entrance to the stairwell, warning of the contents of the Project. The display of shirts provoked a lot of controversy this year, but most of the critics of the Project were anonymous. It’s time for people on the SMCM to speak out about sexual assault, and there needs to be a place for them to do so.
On April 30th, 2014, there will be a forum on campus sexual assault held for students, faculty, staff, and the administration. This event will feature a panel comprising of Interim President Ian Newbould, Dean of Students Roberto Ifill, Title IX Coordinator Kristin McGeeney, Professor of Religious Studies Katharina von Kellenbach and Peer Health Educator/First Responder Helena Klassen. The panel will answer questions concerning recent changes to the sexual misconduct policy, improving ways of raising awareness about sexual violence (such as the Clothesline Project) and discussing methods of preventing sexual violence on campus. Meghan Root, the SMCM wellness/sexual assault advocate, will moderate the forum. The forum will be held in Cole Cinema at 8pm. All students, faculty, staff and administrators who believe that sexual assault is an issue that most be confronted and prevented on the SMCM campus are encouraged to attend.
Please email all questions or comments regarding the forum to Emma Kaufman at firstname.lastname@example.org.