Sexual Climate Forum facilitates open dialogue

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Last Monday evening, October 27, approximately 300 students filled Memorial Chapel for a two-hour Sexual Climate Forum intended to inspire open dialogue about sexual respect at Colgate and provide knowledge of the resources and support systems available on campus.

Promoting the event on Facebook, student organizers promised a “unique opportunity for the Colgate community to begin an honest, educated, sensitive discussion about sexual assault on college campuses.” The event was meant to spark an extended dialogue.

Documentary filmmaker Liz Canner moderated the event, sharing an interactive keynote speech and presentation of excerpts from her new film, Silent U. She then fielded questions and concerns, some of which had been posed online in advance of the event. Quoting the Department of Justice statistic that one in four college women will experience sexual assault or attempted assault in their time at university, she emphasized that assault happens, even here.

Canner invited the audience to question their own feelings of safety on campus, and how they could better support those who feel unsafe or threatened. She shared the stage with a panel of faculty and administrators who are directly involved in positively reshaping Colgate’s sexual climate and ensuring that students feel safe in their environments.
The panelists offered their expertise and awareness of Colgate initiatives and processes regarding assault.

Serving on the panel were Khristian Kemp-DeLisser, assistant dean and director of LGBTQ Initatives; Valerie Brogan, investigator and assistant director of campus Safety; Meika Loe, associate professor of sociology and women’s studies, and director of women’s studies; Andrea (Drea) Finley ’13, outreach policy coordinator with the ALANA Cultural Center; Scott Brown, dean of students; Dawn LaFrance, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services; and Marilyn Rugg, associate provost for equity and diversity, Title XI coordinator, and professor of romance languages and literatures.

The goal to institute positive change was clear.

“I am so pleased that students were finally able to initiate a conversation about the sexual climate on campus,” said Emma Schoenberger ’17. “The topic is too broad to having a satisfying conversation about in only two hours, but it was a great start.” Schoenberger is current participating in Colgate’s Yes Means Yes seminar.

“Sexual respect is a very important issue, as it underscores what are the responsibilities we all have to each other,” said Brown. “I am inspired that a large number of students showed up and shared their stories, comments, and experiences. This will help us keep this constructive momentum going forward. As an institution we have been committed to this effort, not just sexual assault prevention but positive sexuality as well, for many years and will be relentless in making this the most vibrant, safe, and inclusive campus possible.”

Brown encouraged students to create safe spaces for support. He referenced recent student-run initiatives like Christina Liu’s production of This Is Not a Play About Sex, and Yes Means Yes.

Finley reminded students of the power they have, and advocated for them to use their voices to effect change.

The sexual climate forum followed the October 23 Brown Bag sponsored by Brothers and the Student Government Association about the Colgate “hookup culture.” The lunch featured a panel of Colgate students representing all class years on campus. Manny Medina ’18, a member of Brothers, moderated the event in which panelists shared their thoughts and experiences of the campus’ sexual climate.

Throughout the semester, students will continue to pursue further initiatives to continue the campus conversation about consent and sexual violence on Colgate’s campus.