In the first Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA) meeting for the Class of 2020 senators on Wednesday evening, the discussion centered on how to help underclassmen like themselves feel safe on campus.
WCGA rushed through old business to dedicate more than an hour of its weekly meeting to discuss concerns about recent events on campus, including the allegations of sexual assault mishandling by the administration and Kappa Alpha’s suspension after a sexist email. The open discussion was partially for WCGA members to talk about their own worries while also relaying concerns from the Westhampton College community as a whole.
“I found myself in my room with six of my Westhampton residents, most of them crying, expressing fear and anger at the statistics that one in four women in college will be a victim of sexual assault,” Erin Dunstan, senior senator and resident assistant, said. “A lot of students are feeling a little scared and lost and we have an incredible school here, an incredible community obviously, but there’s a lot of stuff going on that people are confused about.”
Underclassmen echoed those concerns, including Ally Charleston, Class of 2020 president.
“My biggest concern is that we don’t have the faith that you guys do in the community, in the University of Richmond community,” Charleston said. “Even if that’s been shaken with everything that’s happened, we don’t even have that basis. I think it’s just been really scary for everybody, all the first-years.”
Suggestions to encourage a strong community ranged from having special events for freshmen Westhampton College students, working to establish a “new normal” campus culture and just being someone that can listen to others. Several members also encouraged freshmen to reach out to their orientation advisors, academic advisors and resident assistants with questions and concerns.
“It’s a difficult time for everyone as they’re figuring out how they’re feeling and what’s happening and trying to make sense of it all, especially for the first-years,” Julia Rivara, WCGA Chair of Senate said. “Just know that there’s people there for you and also just be there for everyone else.”
Though WCGA has not yet decided how they want to reach out to the student body, and underclassmen in particular, president Mia Hagerty also wants students to use the student government as a resource during this time.
“We recognize that each individual is at a different stage of processing the events of last week,” Hagerty said. “We just want to make it clear to everyone now that WCGA is always here to listen to anybody who would like to bring something to us, as we’re working on this issue as a body together.”
Westhampton College Dean Mia Genoni was also present at the meeting and encouraged students to reach out to her directly.
“I’m listening, I understand that it’s a time for change, and please come talk to me,” Genoni said.
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