Rally Calls for Sexual Violence Response Reform Once Again
Student supporters of the Sexual Violence Task Force held a rally in the Usdan University Center at noon on Monday, calling attention to sexual assault issues on campus and requesting student signatures for letters to President Michael Roth. The Task Force is composed of students, parents, professors, and administrators assigned to review the University’s sexual assault policy. During the rally, students read speeches from the steps leading to the Usdan Marketplace, while others banged cups on the tables below.
“The purpose of this rally was not at all to be abrasive or contentious towards President Roth or towards the administration, but to be collaborative and demonstrate the massive backing that the task force has within the community,” wrote Cornelia Lorentzen ’13 in an e-mail to the Argus. “Our hope is that, after receiving hundreds of letters, he will be forced to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue of sexual violence at Wesleyan and follow through on the suggestions the task force has worked hard to prepare over the past few months.”
During the rally and throughout this week, students collected signatures on a letter to Roth asking him to support the Task Force when it releases its recommendations for fixing the current policies on Friday. As of noon Thursday, the group had collected 584 signatures from a combination of students, faculty, parents, and alumnae.
“I look forward to seeing the Task Force’s recommendations made public to the campus, and acted upon urgently and transparently, as the current lack of centralization of resources around sexual violence is an continuous threat to the safety of our community,” the letter reads. “I will be eagerly awaiting your plan of action at the beginning of next semester.”
While the administration has not officially responded to the rally, Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer was optimistic about the outcomes of the Task Force’s work.
“We’re coming down to the final proposal and have been working with a large group of people coming up with good suggestions,” he said. “I can’t comment on the specifics right now, but I think some good things will come out of it.”
At the rally, one student read aloud an April 16, 2010 Wespeak written by Joanna Bourain ’12 entitled “Wesleyan’s Great, Unless You Get Raped,” which detailed her dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of her allegations that another student had raped her.
Other students then read reactions to her Wespeak, demanding an overhaul of the system in place for responding to sexual assault cases on campus.
“We cannot allow these large gaps in our campus safety to go unacknowledged,” Lorentzen said during the rally. “We cannot let the life-altering experiences of our peers and the efforts to speak out about them fade into history.”
Lorentzen also called attention to another Wespeak published last spring that was written and signed by 536 members of the University community, demanding the creation of a position dedicated to addressing sexual violence. During the same period, a group of student activists and Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members created a report detailing 13 measures needed to improve the University’s policy and resources for sexual violence.
“Among these things were a full-time staff member, the creation of a Gender Resource Center, the institution of mandatory consent trainings during freshman orientation, and the creation of anonymous reporting,” said one student at the rally. “I mention these things in particular, because these are the same demands that were created by a separate group of students who came together three weeks ago, without any of us having heard of the WSA report. It is clear that as a student body. We know what we need.”
The students who held the rally said they hope the task force’s recommendations, which are scheduled to be released on Friday, will be similar to those in the WSA report.
“Although the task force has one meeting left and hasn’t been able to share their final recommendations, we do know that their overarching goals closely match those of the collective of students that organized the rally today and the letter-writing campaign as well as those of the WSA committee that met last year and created their own list of suggestions,” Lorentzen wrote. “We are fully confident in and supportive of the sexual violence task force’s efforts this semester and their upcoming proposal.”