Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, is set to take the helm of the Coalition for Respect, replacing David Tuttle, dean of students. The sexual assault awareness group has been on hiatus this semester as they reevaluate their strategy following a lack of student engagement.
“I came to this decision [to step away from the Coalition] when I saw the positive momentum being generated by students. I have been close to this for some time and think there is interest in new ideas and fresh perspectives, and I embrace that,” Tuttle wrote in an email interview.
At the inception of the Coalition, Tynes and Tuttle worked together, with Tuttle focusing on policies and procedures surrounding sexual assault on campus, and Tynes focusing on education and prevention. In the last couple of years, Tynes stepped away from the Coalition in order to focus on other aspects of her job.
“[Tuttle is] still going to be doing his work with regard to policies and procedures. I think what he sensed is that the student interest seems to be in the education and prevention. The other piece of it is that he really took the lead for the past couple of years — I just haven’t really had the time or the bandwidth to do a lot with it, and I’ve missed doing it. So we’re just kind of going to switch a little bit,” Tynes said.
Cecelia Turkewitz, sophomore and member of the Coalition, is hopeful that more voices will come to the table with the restructured leadership.
“I appreciate all the things dean Tuttle has done and the time he has put in to the coalition this year and all previous years. I believe [Tuttle] stepping down will allow others to step up and bring new ideas to the table. There are lots of faculty and students with fantastic ideas and I am excited to help enact them in any way I can,” Turkewitz said.
Megan Allen, senior and member of the Coalition, expressed more doubt.
“[Tuttle’s] defensive responses to criticism about university practices do not aid in creating change on campus and effectively invalidate the student experience,” Allen wrote in an email interview. “We want someone with administrative authority to listen to our ideas and complaints and understand student perceptions. Will [Tynes] be this person? I don’t know, but someone needs to start listening to our feedback and taking it seriously.”
The Coalition has struggled with student involvement in the last few years, but “Pre-Coalition” meetings this semester have shown renewed student interest in preserving the group. Tynes explained that they plan to expand programming from its current heavy focus on first-years during New Student Orientation (NSO).
“Students told us, ‘Rather than load it all on [NSO], here are the touchpoints during the year that would be helpful.’ Because here’s the thing with [NSO]: it’s just first-years and RAs. There’s no sophomores, juniors or seniors,” Tynes said.
Turkewitz explained that while first-years should be the primary focus, upperclassmen should be involved in the programming.
“I do think it is vital that sophomores, juniors and seniors are the ones facilitating and implementing programs because it is them who have experienced Trinity’s environment and know the dangers related to Trinity’s campus,” Turkewitz said.
Tynes also wants to break up the Coalition into subcommittees focused on specific topics. She highlighted that the majority of continued programming will take the student voice heavily into account.
“This was students telling us when the times where they needed [that reminder]. Students told us Halloween is a time when a lot of students get in trouble. You guys are dressed up, you’re out and about. We talked about some passive programming through an email blast. We partner with the Chocolate Festival. Students told us Spring Break is a bad time, so we put some [programming] in here,” Tynes said.
Tynes also wants to expand the conversation to be more inclusive of male students through something she calls the “Men’s Project,” which will also work outside of the Coalition to improve male four-year graduation rates and student conduct issues.
“There is a lot of toxic masculinity in our culture, and I think if you think about pornography and some of the images of non-consensual sex that are out there and held up as okay, I think that that’s a problem,” Tynes said. “I think that we need to help people humanize and realize that these are real human beings with feeling and hopes and dreams and they are not something that you should be abusing.”
Gemma Smith, sophomore and member of the Coalition, agreed that encouraging more men to participate in dialogues about sexual assault will be beneficial.
“We need to end the problematic mindset that many people, men but also women, fall into with this issue, where they believe that if they themselves will never be a perpetrator of sexual assault, it does not concern them, and they do not have anything to contribute to the conversation surrounding it and the movement against it,” Smith said.
Allen also hopes to change the image surrounding the Coalition.
“The Coalition was poorly publicized in the past, and that’s something we definitely want to change moving forward,” Allen said. “We don’t want there to be a question of what it is, what it does or how to get involved. The more students involved representing groups on campus, the more effective the Coalition can be. The first step to making that happen is expressing to everyone that we are here and we care about improving campus climate surrounding sexual assault and violence. We care about improving the process of reporting. We care.”
The first official Coalition meeting of the semester will be Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in CSI 437.