Last night marked the first of a monthly series of campus open forums hosted jointly by the Community Council and SGA. The forums were created as an opportunity to bring students together to talk about issues of importance on our campus and improve the dialogue between students and students, students and faculty, and students and the administration.
This month’s forum was on the topic of sexual assault, building on the conversations happening in response to the Amherst article circulated a few weeks ago. Smith invited the leaders of the Sexual Assault Oversight Committee and Addie Cunniff, the new SGA Director of Health and Wellness to speak at the beginning, after which the group split off into small discussions.
The discussions were lively and varied, ranging from prevention measures and the changing of cultural behaviors to having effective programs in place for sexual assault victims. Many of the students expressed a lack of knowledge about both our sexual assault policies and where one might be able to go for help after the fact. On the whole, most of the suggestions revolved around having a greater community understanding of the definition of sexual assault as well as the resources available to students. Ultimately, it was a really well done event that spawned a lot of great ideas and good conversations. More after the jump.
However, I have my concerns. What we strive for with these types of events is a community that is open to conversations and change, a community that is willing to come together and recognize our collective flaws and where we can improve. The problem with these events, however, is that we are preaching to the choir. To say nothing of the fact that the composition of the audience was primarily women, these forums, speakers, conversations- they only reach those who already care enough to have an opinion. How is it, then, that we reach those who might care less but would equally benefit from the conversations I had yesterday? That is certainly a goal of Smith and Collado- to bring in a diverse population of students- but what is the best way to achieve those ends?
Earlier in the day President Liebowitz sent out an all-student email detailing the policies and programs in place for victims of sexual assault. This is certainly a start- educating the students on what the administration is doing to address this problem. Moving beyond a simple email though, how do we reach out effectively? (JusTalks, as recently reported by Middblog, came up several times as one possible solution.) I’m looking forward to the next forum, I think it has a lot of potential for success, and I hope to see you all there.