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Students rally against campus rape culture

Sera Yoo


Courtesy: http://socialistworker.org/

Graduate and undergraduate students carried signs and chanted in their march around campus, stopping in front of administrative buildings.

In response to the administration's handling of sexual assault investigations, students protested around campus in a "Rally to End Rape Culture" on Wednesday (29 October).

The students who participated in the rally walked around campus holding signs that said "Stop Victim Blaming" and "Hold PIKE Accountable" - a reference to the alleged gang rape at the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity house in March 2013.

"We want to raise awareness about issues happening right now at Hopkins that are relevant nationwide right now - the issue of failure of administration to protect its students," rally organizer and graduate student Tamara Golan said. "They've been putting the University's reputation over the well-being of their students."

Golan said she had been working with other graduate and undergraduate students for the past few months to plan the rally. The rally was not affiliated with other student clubs; Golan emphasized that they were just acting as concerned students.

"We, the students of Johns Hopkins University, demand a just, robust, transparent and rapid response to the administration's tolerance of rape culture on campus," the rally's Facebook event page stated.

The rallying students alleged that the administration has discouraged students from reporting sexual assault and has hidden other cases on campus in the past. The Facebook event page called out the reported methods that the administration took to deal with those involved with the alleged PIKE gang rape.

Many students at the rally said they do not feel safe at Hopkins because the students involved in alleged gang rape have not yet received any disciplinary action.

"I think it's completely unacceptable and creates a dangerous environment for everyone on campus," graduate student Katherine Glanz said.

The rally moved from Gilman to the Fresh Food Cafe (FFC), the Milton S. Eisenhower Library (MSE), the Mattin Center and Garland Hall. At each location, participants spoke of the University's alleged violations of the Clery Act and Title IX as well as a culture of victim shaming.

When outside the Mattin Center and Garland, which both house administrative offices, the students named administrative officials who have handled sexual assault investigations at the University. They called for the firing of Title IX Coordinator Allison Boyle and Susan Boswell, who was Dean of Student Life until last spring and is now special advisor to the Vice Provost of Student Affairs.

Golan said she did not believe that the rally will immediately affect the ways the administration manages sexual assault cases, but she hopes that rallies and protests will pressure the University to adjust the way they approach their investigations.

"They just released the new sexual assault guidelines, and there are a lot of problems with it. We're hoping by keeping this tension on the issue [and] by getting everyone's voices heard, the administration realizes that the students are not going to put up with anymore failure," Golan said.

Also on Wednesday, the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) carried a mattress around campus as part of the National Day of Action. Students around the country carried mattresses and pillows in support survivors of sexual and domestic violence on college campuses.

The National Day of Action was created by Carry That Weight Together, a coalition of college students and activists inspired by Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, who is carrying a mattress with her wherever she goes as part of her senior thesis.

Sulkowicz will continue her performance art piece, titled "Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight," until either Columbia's administration expels the student she has accused of raping her or until that student graduates.

"Carry the Weight is relevant to Hopkins because it allows people to publicly show their solidarity with survivors of sexual violence," SARU Co-President Becky Grenham wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Ella Rogers, SARU's other co-president, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that they hoped to reduce the stigma around the issue to help survivors of sexual assault feel comfortable seeking support.

"By carrying a mattress and hosting a space for survivors to come and talk, we hoped to bring people together and create collective and mutually supportive healing space where the issue of sexual assault could be discussed openly and without shame," Rogers wrote.

The University is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for their response to incidents of alleged sexual assault and for a possible violation of the Clery Act.

Originally published in The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, October 30, 2014.

Tags: Student movement, campus sexual violence, US Student movement, Carry That Weight campaign


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