Education, academics and advocacy. These are the three pillars that the Coalition for Respect wants to focus its efforts on for the upcoming year. The coalition met on Nov. 28 for the first time with Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, at the helm. Sophomore Cecelia Turkewitz led the meeting, along with seniors Megan Allen and Hannah Braley.
Turkewitz planned this meeting to discuss the relaunch of the coalition in March in order to celebrate Women’s History Month. Twenty seven people attended the meeting, including three faculty members.
“I am really excited for March, and I hope that there’s a big resurgence in March and restructuring. I want everyone to know what the coalition is, what we stand for and what we’re trying to do to better the campus environment,” Turkewitz said.
After presenting the three pillars, Turkewitz, Allen and Braley split the group into three different sections to brainstorm how to best move forward.
In the educational breakout session, students discussed the possibility of bringing the Closeline Project to Trinity, a project that brings awareness to assault and violence by displaying t-shirts on a clothesline that signify different forms of abuse. Turkewitz feels that projects like this will help students understand how widespread the issue is and make it harder for them to ignore. The group also discussed the signs advocating for sexual assault awareness that currently hang in bathrooms across campus and a need to determine if this method of education is effective.
Braley led the academic breakout session, which focused on involving sexual assault education in First-Year Experience classes. Students in this group felt that the amount of time dedicated to sexual assault awareness during New Student Orientation has not been sufficient and that having input on future speakers could be advantageous for furthering the discussion on sexual assault.
Sarah Erickson, professor of communication, and Kathryn Santos, professor of English, were two of the faculty members in attendance, representing the Women and Gender Studies program.
“This is a topic that students are passionate about. In some ways, it’s really inspiring to see the students so excited and so willing to do the work to make real change, so for me it was like, ‘What can I do to help?’” Erickson said.
Other students wanted to focus on how the coalition can be an advocacy and support group. Allen raised the idea of sending representatives to talk to TUPD about the procedures and policies in place for reporting sexual assault and compare those to the policies for Title IX investigations in order to distinguish the differences between civil and criminal cases. The group also discussed the need for a feedback policy. Ryanna Chouman, sophomore, felt that clarifying these distinctions is an important step in moving forward.
“There’s a lot of differences, and the general student population isn’t that informed about it, so we think that if we can create more transparency with TUPD, with the Title IX coordinators and students, we’ll have an easier process for reporting sexual assault,” Chouman said.
After the breakout sessions, the groups reconvened and discussed the tentative goals they each came up with. They then discussed potentially changing the name of the organization to encompass their expanded focus on sexual health, education and assault awareness.
Tynes thought the first official meeting was successful.
“I love the coalition. I love the turnout and I love the interest. I love that there’s faculty here. … I have resources and access to resources that not all of you have access to. To me, we’re the historical memory of the work that has been done in the past. So not reinventing the wheel is my goal for you guys, but making it new and better,” Tynes said.
Other students who attended the meeting are looking forward to spreading the new goals of the coalition.
“I came because I had some ideas on how to get my friends and people around me who are unaware of what this is educated about what we are. I think it went well. I think it went as best as it could,” said sophomore Jack Braley. “The whole idea was to organize our thoughts and actually get a plan of action to go forward and figure out what we want to do right now. Now we’re actually going to start, which is fun and exciting.”