Westhampton College Dean Mia Genoni led an open discussion of around 70 students and alumni Monday night to brainstorm changes in both campus culture and the way the university handles sexual assaults, filling over a dozen poster-boards with ideas and concerns from the crowd.
This event came almost one week after student Cecilia Carreras first published an account of her sexual assault investigation on the Huffington Post contributor network, writing about how she thought the administration mishandled her case.
“This is a call for action and a call for change,” Genoni said. “We have heard loud and clear that both we need to listen, but that you guys are ready for something to happen.”
The meeting, which spanned two hours in the Keller Hall Reception Room, was a forum for both students and alumni to share ideas and solutions for change while addressing lingering concerns about safety and confusion over Title IX procedures. Though aimed at Westhampton College students past and present, a handful of representatives from Richmond College were also in attendance, including RCSGA president Ken Anderson.
Many of the concerns centered on safety on campus, especially from freshmen women.
“I can’t speak for all freshmen girls, but I know I’ve had these conversations with my group of friends, and we don’t feel safe walking around,” freshman Lexi Serek said. “I know a lot of the girls are scared. I don’t know the solution. I don’t know what should be done.”
Crowd members had suggestions ranging from increased sexual assault education during freshmen orientation to eliminating fraternities on-campus. Many attendees also expressed a desire for more transparency from the administration, an independent review of the Title IX process and a rethinking of the coordinate college system. Though the event guidelines billed the discussion as a "safe forum for all ideas", Genoni reiterated that free expression was important to fix the existing problems, regardless of whether the ideas could be implemented or not.
“Your points are not minor,” Genoni said. “They’re incredibly important.”
Melissa Dart, WC ’93, who sparked the discussion at the “It Ends Now” event last Thursday, was also in attendance.
“I have been totally swept up in this, and I didn’t intend for that to happen,” Dart said. “Listen, it’s been 25 years since I’ve been here, and I’m sure this has been going on for however long, but it seems like something might happen, and I am heartened by that.”
Fellow alum Gina Freed, WC ’00, echoed Dart’s sentiments.
“We’re finally having the right discussion,” Freed said. “If you don’t have the right discussion, you’re not going to have the change.”
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