The Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) group strove last Thursday to address campus wide concerns with respect to sexual assault and sexual responsibility.
The group consists of representatives from member organizations with some connection to related issues, along with faculty and staff members.
“We’re not only trying to create institutional change,” ASAP leader Joey Firman, ’10, said. “But given the nature of intimate violence, a lot of it has to do with cultural change as well.”
The forum attracted about 20 community members, including students, faculty and staff. Including Student Senate committee chairs in attendance, those on ASAP outnumbered community attendees.
Among the community members in attendance was senior Amelia Garcia, one of the four students who conducted sexual assault awareness presentations during orientation week.
After the forum, Garcia commented that “an important aspect of the campus is making awareness and responsibility a continuing agenda item.”
In keeping with its goal to become a central “hub” for discussions related to sexual assault, each of the member organizations presented a short description of the services it provides or events it sponsors which are tailored to address sexual assault.
SHAG’s talking points included its orientation week presentations. SHAG’s Co-President and senior Arianna Timko stressed that those presentations can be requested for groups such as suites or clubs outside of orientation week. Also, this year’s groups were given a copy of the Grievance Panel procedures.
Later, Grievance Panel member junior Greg Noth gave an update on new grievance procedures, including the Grievance Coordinator position, currently filled by McNair Program Director Sarah Moschenross, and the availability of eight qualified Process Advocates, who help make the process less daunting.
IFC President senior David Fundakowski explained the universal risk management policy for parties, by which all social fraternities must abide. He added that all new fraternity members are required to attend a meeting on the policy and risk management.
Cervantez spoke on behalf of Assault Survivors Support at Knox (ASSK). She described it as a support group, strictly for Knox students who are survivors of sexual assault.
Those presentations, among others, took up the first half of the gathering. The forum began shortly thereafter, and with it came a more dynamic discussion.
The ensuing conversation was broad in its range, covering topics such as the possibility of having more 24/7 safe spaces on campus or a “first responder” group for sexual assault emergencies.
Firman also referenced a necessary cultural change with respect to sexual assault awareness. He noted that students have a lot of money to make certain events happen on campus.
Garcia spoke to the difficulties with always keeping students interested in those events, though.
“This is tricky for me, because I think that talking about these things is really important, [along with] making sure that this is a conversation that does not just end after orientation or happens every couple of years when there’s an issue that comes up and everyone’s talking about it,” Garcia said. “What is the risk of … inundating students with it?”
Residential Quality of Life Committee chair sophomore Katie Wrenn added that there was a problem with getting people involved “even when [these issues were] fresh in everybody’s minds.”
These topics tended to hover around issues of sexual assault and violence. Eventually, the conversation took on a more lighthearted tone, turning to a positive discussion about sex.
Student Senate President Sam Claypool argued that was Senate’s original plan for ASAP, but she acknowledged similar issues with student involvement.
“It’s hard to frame it as ‘Let’s talk about sex,’” Claypool said. “We want a part of it to be about sexual responsibility. It would be nice to say, ‘Let’s talk about good sex.’”
But that is just where much of the forum’s remainder went.
Carlin-Metz went on to talk about her amazement at how students will talk about sex.
“I am just astonished at the level of candor and openness, and the reality to me is that that is the frame we have to be looking at,” Carlin-Metz said. “How do we cast sex in a positive light where people then…[have] more candid, free and intimate conversations. You can have sex, and you can talk about it too.”