Editor's note: Confidential sexual assault resources for UR students include CARE Advocates, which can be reached at email@example.com or 804.801.6251; Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors (PSMA), at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.346.7674; CAPS, at CAPS@richmond.edu or 804.289.8119; Virginia LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline (24/7), at 866.356.6998; Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (24/7), at 804.612.6126; National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7) at 800.656.HOPE.
Students shared their accounts of assault, censorship, and exclusion at a town hall meeting on the Westhampton Green on April 1. Junior Hoor Ain organized the town hall after her disqualification from the Westhampton College Government Association presidential election.
The disqualification happened a day after Ain was told to issue an apology and delete an Instagram post where she stated there were sexual predators in the Richmond College Student Government Association, she said.
“I am here to say that I am not sorry,” Ain said to the crowd of around 50 students. “I stand by what I said, and I am still on your side.”
During the town hall, which took place on the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a Westhampton College student said she had been sexually assaulted by a member of RCSGA. Another Westhampton College student said that there was an active police investigation and a no-contact order against a member of RCSGA who she said had abused her. Documents obtained by The Collegian confirmed that there is a no-contact order and a University of Richmond Police Department investigation against the member of RCSGA.
The last RCSGA meeting for this academic year’s body happened on March 30, so there is no current body, RCSGA President-elect junior Arju Patel said. While Patel didn’t attend the event because Ain asked him to leave to create a safe space for the survivors, he heard about the student who had the no-contact order, he said.
“I'm sorry,” Patel said. “I'm sorry that the survivor had to go through that, and I'm sorry that that person wasn't held accountable.”
Ain told the crowd that she was there as their friend and wanted them to feel comfortable speaking out about their experiences without the potential of being censored as she said she had been.
WCGA senators spoke publicly about how they felt silenced by the Westhampton College deans. Three senators asked The Collegian not to be named out of what they said was fear of retribution from the deans.
Sophomore Annie Waters said that she was not speaking on behalf of the body or as a senator, but as a student who had been harmed by the system.
“Hoor was disqualified for speaking out rightfully against sexual assault on our campus,” Waters said. “And I have seen so many Westhampton College senators be silenced for making similar claims.”
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Many of the students who spoke at the town hall also discussed their experiences with the Title IX process and how they felt mistreated and silenced by the Title IX office.
Early into the discussion, a member of the crowd pointed out that there were people on a campus tour walking by. Students then began shouting, “Do not come here.”
Ain’s disqualification from the election showed a lot about what the Westhampton deans value, junior Javier Cruz said. He said he felt that there should be more unity within the colleges.
“The fact that there’s a Westhampton and a Richmond side [of UR] — that just didn’t sit well with me,” Cruz said.
Students spoke out about the exclusionary nature of the coordinate college system and how it marginalized and isolated people of non-conforming gender identities.
“They need to value diversity, equity and inclusion like they say they do on every website,” Josh Higdon, ‘21, said. Higdon talked about their experience as a non-binary student and how they transferred from Richmond College to Westhampton College.
The coordinate college system is ridiculous and archaic, they said. Students should be able to have genuine conversations about sexual assault without their voices being shut down, Higdon said.
“There should be no shadiness of people randomly getting disqualified without any explanations,” Higdon said. “We deserve better as a campus.”
Students pointed out WCGA President Penny Hu’s quote in a previous Collegian article where she said that she had been shocked Ain had referred to members of RCSGA as sexual predators without “solid evidence.”
“Is that enough evidence for you?” Ain said, referring to the stories from students who spoke at the town hall.
Hu did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.
It’s time for students to speak out against censorship and share their experiences because their voices are the strongest thing they have, Ain said.
“I know that I'm not the only story,” she said. “I know I’m a part of a much bigger issue."
Contact news editor Natasha Sokoloff at email@example.com and editor-in-chief Jackie Llanos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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