VPAS works towards a safer college campus
Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor
Making students feel safe is a priority for any university that hopes to be an attractive option for students. Too often, stories of sexual assault, among many other forms of gross misconduct, may occur on college campuses.
As a serious concern among the college community, Southern stands committed to making the campus a safe environment. Assuring that students have the necessary resources to feel comfortable and secure is shared by many organizations.
VPAS, the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy, and Support Center, is now one of the resources on campus that has been making an active effort to be present in the eyes of the Southern community. Tabling around campus is a great way to connect with students when it comes to discussing the difficult issues.
“I know a lot of it can sound heavy since these can be very tough issues,” said Melissa Richard, a sexual assault and violence prevention specialist and university advocate. “But we try to make students interested and engaged in our tabling. The last two semesters we’ve done a lot of fun games. Sometimes it can turn people off. It’s a very difficult subject, but at least if we can get people doing interactive fun stuff, and learning positives like what a healthy relationship should look like, that’s really important.”
Since engaging students is such a crucial part of VPAS’ commitment to helping students, and combating the different forms of misconduct on campus, they host different large events, often with tabling being a precursor.
“Take Back the Night is our annual event,” said Rachel Zagielski, a student worker and psychology major. “We do a pre-rally, a march, and the main event. There’s a speak out, another march, and there’s music and everything. It’s just about empowering survivors and for those who feel strongly about the topic to stand up and speak out about it.”
An annual event at Southern since 1998, Take Back the Night, is an international rally that takes place in countries in Europe and Asia, as well as across campuses in the U.S. In preparation of this event, VPAS’ tabling has included taking pictures of students with empowering messages for survivors and being as active and present as possible.
The main focus, though, still remains on making sure students have the information and support systems in place when faced with extreme circumstances of any misconduct that could be seen on a college campus.
“A lot of our work is focused on dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking and intervening in terms of those situations,” said Richard. “Our office has also started to work with survivors of bullying and hazing and other types of crimes and empowering students if they hear something. Kathy and I are advocates who provide students with information and empower them and give all possible options. It’s just supporting students when we may be the only support available.”
Catherine Christy is the director of VPAS and has helped facilitate the Take Back the Night even since she took over at VPAS, formerly the women’s center.
The goal of Take Back the Night is to include students, educate them, and make a supportive environment with as much support from Southern’s community as possible.
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor