Starting the first day of spring term, the previously defunct student organization Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention will be returning to campus.
ASAP’s return has been spearheaded by junior Allie Fry as part of a wider movement against sexual assault on campus and across the nation, as faculty and national leaders alike, including Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Lori Schroeder and President Barack Obama, urge action.
ASAP “aims to educate and engage with the Knox community about practicing good consent, dismantling rape culture and educating students about the resources available to them,” according to Fry.
ASAP began fading out in fall term 2011, falling prey to “a sustainability issue,” said Fry. Leadership turnover was unusually high, and biweekly meetings made it difficult to sustain an active membership.
Fry did research and interviews before restarting the organization, concluding that there were more strengths than weaknesses, and that along with support from the Knox administration, it was worth it.
ASAP already has several organizational allies across campus, including Students Against Sexism in Society and Dean Schroeder’s newly-formed Task Force on Sexual Assault, Prevention and Response.
The Task Force is itself composed of leaders from across campus, including Student Senate Sustainability Chair senior Nora McGinn, senior Jamal Nelson and junior Robert Turski.
Fry also expressed concern over inadequate sex education at freshmen orientation, which was addressed by Dean Schroeder, who listed clear information as a directive of her role.
“[My role as Title IX coordinator] includes appropriate response to allegations, ensuring counseling services are available to both claimants and respondents … and that we have a well-understood and properly executed policy.”
On the question of underreporting and mishandled cases on college campuses, Schroeder cited “a whole cultural history” behind it.
This includes stereotypes of young drunk women as irresponsible or reckless, as well as the “boys will be boys” idea, which excuses aggressive male behavior.
Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendment Act states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Though it had been previously used largely to provide opportunities to female athletes, the Department of Education sent out a nationwide directive in 2010 reminding colleges that Title IX protects from all kinds of discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment.
There has been an increasing recognition at the political level that sexual assaults on college campuses often go unreported, and action has come from both the grassroots and the highest levels of government.
A recent Center for Disease Control report put the number of women sexually assaulted during college at one in four — a staggering statistic that helped President Obama launch a task force on the issue last month, which has 90 days to file a report.
Fry is positive about recent federal initiatives, but cautions that there is still “a huge gap between large legal initiatives and student understanding.”