“Just Be F***ing Nice,” a workshop about consent, was held by senior Libby Richmond, president of Panhellenic Council, and junior Eden Sarkisian, co-president of Students Against Sexism In Society (SASS).
The event was intended to make consent a priority on campus and to “cover gray areas” in the college’s Title IX policy, Richmond told the group of 18 students gathered in Ferris Lounge on Monday night. Sarkisian explained that the title was meant to help draw people’s attention to the event.
The pair hosted the second installment of their workshop after their first on Oct. 16. The opened by asking everyone in the semi-circle of purple chairs why they attended. Answers varied from ‘I feel like I should educate myself’ to ‘I was forced to come.’
“The reason we wanted to do a second one is because we just didn’t feel like we covered everything we wanted to in the first one,” Richmond said.
After these brief introductions, the attendees were given yellow post-it notes and pens that read “knox.edu/respect,” the url that details the Title IX policy at Knox.
Everyone was asked to write definitions or examples of the categories on the notes and stick them on a large white poster taped to the wall at the front of the room. This poster was divided into three sections: ‘Assault,’ ‘Consent’ and ‘Solidarity.’ When the poster was filled with everyone’s thoughts, Richmond and Sarkisian read them aloud.
Sarkisian circled in bright red marker three notes that didn’t contain a definition, but instead conveyed a lack of prior knowledge. They all fell under the ‘Solidarity’ column.
“Defining solidarity and putting it in practice is one of the goals of the workshop,” Richmond told the crowd.
“There were some tensions last year between SASS and the Greek community after what happened at the Take Back the Night march,” Richmond said.
Richmond was referring to when SASS marched past the Phi Gamma Delta house and some members of the fraternity played loud music to drown out the demonstration.
“[The march] was intended for solidarity and for victims,” Richmond said. “I didn’t want SASS to feel like they didn’t have the support from anyone in the Greek community behind them.”
The attendees then split into two groups and discussed different ways that asking for consent can be framed. Whether it be silly, sexy or awkward, Sarkisian reminded the participants that consent is necessary for any sexual activity. The groups then discussed ways to be an active bystander in potentially dangerous situations.
Opinions differed regarding whether it is easier or harder to intervene on the college’s small campus.
“I think it’s easier,” Richmond said, citing personal experiences of successfully approaching strangers during dangerous situations.
‘Asking the person to go to the bathroom with you,’ and ‘Yelling at the aggressor’ were among some suggestions that the participants offered.
The next discussion centered on the prevalence of slut-shaming and victim-blaming in society and how to combat these ideologies at Knox. Examples provided of things that people can say to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault were: ‘I believe you,’ ‘I am sorry this happened,’ and ‘Thank you for telling me.’
“I don’t think it’s on survivors of sexual assault to make sexual assault stop happening,” Richmond said.
She went on to detail the specific risks sorority members face.
“Women involved in Greek life are disproportionately affected by sexual violence . . .” Richmond said. “[Fraternity members] are disproportionately inclined, or I don’t know, disproportionately represented in statistics involving perpetration of sexual assault.”
Resources for survivors both on campus and off were discussed during the wrap-up of the event. These went beyond the more commonly known Title IX Office and Counseling Services to include Safe Harbor and Rescue Mission, both found in Galesburg. Title IX coordinator Kim Schrader reminded the group that she is always available as a resource on campus.
While they do not have a third session in the works right now, the Panhellenic Council and SASS want to continue collaborating in the future.
Eden Sarkisian is the discourse editor for TKS.