Students gathered outside of President Roth's house following meeting of the Board of Trustees.

c/o Sophie Zinser

Students organized by the Feminist Underground gathered outside of President Michael Roth’s house on Saturday, Sept. 20, for a candlelit vigil honoring future victims of sexual assault. The vigil was coordinated so that its participants would greet members of the Board of Trustees as they left a dinner with Roth. Following a day of trustee meetings regarding University policy, the vigil called attention to the ongoing issue of sexual assault on campus and promoted the prioritization of sexual assault policy on the Trustees’ agenda.

Several vigil members held a sign that read, “In the next two weeks there will be 100 new freshman victims of sexual assault and harassment at Wesleyan.” The statistic was taken from University freshmen’s responses to past surveys. The layout of the poster mimicked the font and style of Wesleyan’s “This is Why” campaign ads.

The event lasted about an hour in total, with a total of approximately thirty student attendees. Board of Trustees member Diana Farrell ’87 joined vigil attendees at Usdan after the vigil to hear their stories and discuss possible solutions to the problem of sexual assault on campus.

As members of the Board of Trustees began to exit Roth’s house, two Public Safety (PSafe) officers approached the crowd and asked them to “move along.” However, because the vigil participants were on the side of the sidewalk furthest from the president’s house, they were still on public property and thus legally allowed to stand in support of their cause.

Feminist Underground organizer Tess Altman ’17 emphasized the legality of the vigil and noted that the event was not a protest against the administration or the Board of Trustees.

“One of our main goals with this event was to welcome and inform people who aren’t ready to necessarily commit their whole lives to our cause,” Altman said. “So we got the word out by word of mouth and text message, rather than a Facebook event where you just click ‘Join.’ We also thought it was important that students wear black; you have to take the time to prepare yourself alone before you come to the vigil.”

Passersby had varying reactions to the vigil and posters. University Professor of Letters Kari Weil approached the crowd and thanked the students for their efforts. Toward the end of the vigil, Roth and Chair of the Committee for Inclusion and Diversity Sadasia McCutchen ’17 approached the crowd together. McCutchen joined the vigil, while Roth addressed the students and thanked them for being there.

Altman organized the vigil along with Raechel Rosen ’15 and Isabel Alter ’17. All three of the student organizers are involved with the Feminist Underground, whose primary goal is to support any feminist projects or political action on campus. The group strives to reform the adjudication process at the University and to change social forces that feed into sexism on campus and beyond.

Throughout the day on Saturday, as Board of Trustees members met to discuss various issues on campus, Feminist Underground members gathered outside the meeting spaces handing out bracelets for trustees to wear in support of sexual assault survivors. The group also published a table of recommendations for sexual assault policy at the University, which they distributed to trustees.

“I think that our distribution of our list of demands made people think critically about the issue, while I hope that the vigil made people feel about the issue,” Rosen said. “There is very little way for the Board to know what’s going on on campus. The statistic is very shocking. I also think that this vigil it gave the students to see who makes up the Board of Trustees, so they can see the faces of those who change our policies.”

Vigil attendee Daniel Pope ’16 commented on the personal effect that the event had on him.

“I thought it was a very powerful event to take part in, although I don’t consider myself very involved with issues like it on campus,” Pope said. “The sign that we held was incredible because it was true, and facts like that speak for themselves.”

  • This is terrible 100 new victims of sexual assault and harrassment. I would like to see the survey questions and the definition for sexual assault. If sexual assault is this prevalent I would not want my granddaughters to go to this school.

    • Whfoank

      Don’t worry it isn’t. They just like to make up facts because the real facts aren’t “convincing enough”.

    • Correcting ridiculous claims

      The 100 statistic is based off of the lie that 1 and 4 women are sexually assaulted in college. It came from a study conducted at 2 universities with a completely voluntary survey. The survey defined any sexual contact (consensual or not) as rape if alcohol was involved. There are a lot of other issues too with it. This article from the Times debunks it and a few other commonly cited myths. It’s funny they wouldn’t check the facts before making such obviously ridiculous claims but maybe spreading the truth isn’t their goal.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the comment from MsCarol, and the question about definitions, and I am glad to see that people are raising awareness of such an important issue. I would be curious to know how these statistics might compare with other schools, and also how the statistics are affected by fraternity coeducation. Surely the numbers should go down to zero once same-sex fraternal living situations are outlawed on campus and the boys and girls are living together all cozy in consensual peace. Any number greater than zero means that our educators and society are failing our young children by not taking paternal responsibility for their actions.

  • JG

    Man, you know you’re really speaking Truth to Power when Power comes outside to pat you on the back and thank you for your efforts!

    Given that the college just got through enacting some pretty dramatic (some would say draconian) measures to alter campus life to appease feminist grievances and sensibilities, you might expect they would take a little break from their collective wailing about how terrible everything and everyone is.

    But you’d be wrong about that! Because you see, the feminist grievance mongering can never stop, not even for second. If a legitimate grievance cannot immediately be identified and articulated, one will simply be fabricated. If there are no known sexual assault cases to speak of in recent history, they will point to “future” sexual assault cases! In the absence of actual aggression, they will point to “microaggressions”! In the absence of a true”rape epidemic” they will speak of “rape culture”! In the absence of any genuine cause for offense, they will complain of “triggering” language, and so on.

    Why the ceaseless griping? Two reasons, at least. First, when you are surrounded by men who are eager (nay, biologically impelled) to come to the aid of a woman in apparent distress, playing the victim can be a source of tremendous power. Who would give that up?

    Second, and far more insidisious when you get right down to it, the root and ultimate object of all feminist griping seems to be human nature itself–and not just a peripheral aspect of human nature, mind you, but an essential an indispensable component: namely, sexual dimorphism. The ultimate injustice is biological and immutable, and feminists will never tire of raging against it.