Today: Jun 17, 2024

Rally on campus raises awareness and support

Josh Falcone – General Assignment Reporter

 

Last Tuesday, Sept. 10, SCSU Speaks held a rally in front of Earl Hall in support of the university making drastic sweeping changes to it’s sexual harassment and sexual assault policies.

The rally was also in support of Southern student Wendy Wyler, and other anonymous victims who have accused Dr. David Chevan of sexually harassing them in the past. Attendees voiced their want for the university to terminate him accordingly, as well as demanded justice for all Southern students who have faced any sort of harassment on the campus.

Wyler gave a speech at the rally, detailing the harassment she claims she endured and the negative treatment she said she received by the university after reporting the claim. In addition to Wyler, other members of SCSU gave speeches, and anyone in the crowd who wished to was invited to speak. One such person was an unidentified woman who attends the university that said she suffered sexual harassment in silence as an undergrad at Southern 20 years ago and how it still affects her today.

Wyler said the woman’s revelation of still feeling the effects of her attack is telling.

“It just shows the other victims, this happened to them three years ago, so you can imagine how they feel,” Wyler said.

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Professor Heidi Lockwood, who was not speaking as a faculty member but rather as a member of the Southern community said that the students at the university are part of a nationwide movement which has distinct goals.

“Pushing for reform to policies, procedures, and perhaps most importantly, the culture on campuses across the country,” Lockwood said.

The culture aspect, Lockwood said, is about moving away from the “bystander effect,” where people think it is not their responsibility to report or speak up when it comes to assault and abuse.

Lockwood went on to say that there is recent research that shows not just the survivors of sexual misconduct but also the community as a whole feels an “institutional betrayal,” and that they feel that the system has failed to safeguard them and protect their human rights.

This was part of the reason she spoke at the rally, as a person, not as a faculty member, Lockwood said, just as an individual in the community.

“I think it’s really important for us to speak out as individuals against injustice, to mute that sense of institutional betrayal,” she said. “The institution at this root, it’s a collection of people, so person to person, we can do a lot to reconnect.”

The brave Wendy Wyler speaking at the rally last Tuesday.
The brave Wendy Wyler speaking at the rally last Tuesday.

Lockwood said she thinks Southern needs to have a university-wide zero tolerance conference.

Wyler said she felt the rally went well.

“It was a really great turnout,” she said. “We had a lot of supporters there.”

Fellow SCSU Speaks members Madison Breuer and Amanda Proscino agreed with that sentiment.

“To see that turnout was very exciting,” Breuer said, “and to see that people do care about this and people do want to get involved was also exciting.”

Breuer said she and Proscino got involved in the case and started looking into the university sexual harassment policy as well as Title IX and what they could do to expand on these.

“We know this isn’t an isolated case, we know this is happening across this university, and across the nation,” Breuer said. “So we’re trying to understand what our protection is as students and what we can do to expand that.”

Wyler said that the SCSU Speaks has a set of current goals.

“Our main goal right now is to have the professor removed from the campus,” she said. “And also to have the school be held accountable, because even though he was found to have violated their policies, they are denying it.”

Many members of the Southern Community reached out to Wyler, Breuer and Proscino after the rally last week, Wyler said.

“We have had a ton of students reach out to us,” she said, “and they mention similar things happening to them. Where the university tells them to go away, pretty much, and that they cannot speak out about this. This is extremely abusive, because we have the right to speak out, and we have the right to get help from people.”

Wyler said that SCSU Speaks holds meetings at which they discuss different issues pertaining to harassment and assault culture.

“We have meetings where we address these kinds of issues,” Wyler said, “institutions sort of suppressing any sort of complaints and working on what we can do to change that. And change that at this university, because it really needs to be changed.”

Wyler said that at the meetings they will discuss Title IX as well.

The rally took place in front of Earl Hall, right in front of Dr. Chevan's office
The rally took place in front of Earl Hall, right in front of Dr. Chevan’s office

SCSU Speaks was invited by Angela Rose, founder of Promoting Awareness, Victim Awareness or PAVE, and Laura Dunn, the founder of ServJustice Now to a Title IX conference at Georgetown University Law Center, Wyler said.

“Maybe we can bring what we learn there back to the campus,” she said.

In addition to the student group SCSU Speaks, Breuer said she is attempting to start an on-campus group through the Women’s Center that will also fight harassment and assault on the campus. This group is meeting Sept. 18 at 1:00 p.m. in the Women’s Center.

More information on SCSU SPEAKS including their upcoming meetings can be found on their facebook page, facebook.com/southernspeaks.southernspeaks.

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