The fight to raise sexual assault awareness at DePaul

As the Honors Student Government liaison to the Student Government Association (SGA), I have had the unique experience of observing this group of student leaders from a somewhat detached perspective. On March 5, I was present for the SGA meeting at which a resolution was presented. This resolution, originally drafted as a “list of demands,” was written by the DePaul Feminist Front, an activist organization that “seeks to make the campus a safer environment for feminine-identifying and presenting people.”

While not a member of the DePaul Feminist Front, I avidly support what they stand for. In February, I participated in the Vagina Monologues at DePaul and I am proud to call myself a feminist. While I do not see people aggressively working to make DePaul’s campus less safe, I do see areas for growth in which our college community can work to confront these societal issues of sexual violence.

This is why I was very pleased to be present at this SGA meeting to see students taking steps to encourage more dialogue on these issues. This meeting had the potential to foster meaningful change in regards to DePaul campus culture.

Much of the discussion from the Feminist Front at the meeting and the language in the referendum appears to place a majority of the blame on administration, rather than campus culture as a whole. In such deep discussions, it is easy to place the blame on individuals or small groups, rather than see the massive scale of these issues. This is not a DePaul-only problem. Colleges across the country are having similar conversations. The time is now to address these issues.

It is no surprise then that such a complex, important issue could not be resolved within a two-hour SGA meeting. Since the meeting, some students have criticized SGA for not representing student voices. I believe SGA conveyed many realistic and open suggestions about how students can be collaborating, taking student perspective deeply into consideration.

Throughout the conversation, I felt that SGA was open to collaborating with the student group, and they seemed eager to continue productive dialogue with fellow students. In the end, the resolution was voted down, but the hope to work together on sexual violence prevention is still strong.

SGA is already making meaningful strides to confront these issues. To date, SGA brought student representation to a sexual violence prevention working group, facilitated a Let’s Talk Consent workshop with Health Promotion and Wellness, and helped the same office launch Take Care DePaul.

SGA has also worked to institute Haven, an online module focused on bystander intervention training. Beginning fall 2015, all incoming DePaul students will step onto campus with an increased awareness and vocabulary for these issues.

Sexual violence prevention is a crucial issue. No person or college student government has the power to reverse these systemic injustices overnight; but students openly, and humbly, working together can begin to make meaningful change.

The power to confront systemic change is in us, as students, to stand together and make our community better. As a passionate supporter of campus safety, sexual assault awareness and meaningful conversation, I hope that SGA, students and the entire DePaul community can work together to continue efforts that create meaningful change.