by Anna Gombert
This Wednesday evening KUUMBA and !BOAS hosted a fireside chat to discuss rape culture, specifically in the athletic community and fraternities. The chat was facilitated by two Drew professors who have experience working with the topic. Marc Boglioli is a professor of anthropology who teaches a women and gender studies course about gender and culture. Traci West is a professor of ethics and African American studies in the theological school. Professor West does work on violence against women with concentration in intersectionality, specifically the sexual violence perpetuated against black women. The head coach of the men’s baseball team Brian Hirschberg was also present to add his point of view as someone who works closely with and oversees young athletes.
Professor Boglioli opened the conversation by discussing how all male groups in America often seem to foster and perpetuate the culture as well as the notion that different cultures view and deal with rape in different ways. It was also discussed how big of a factor alcohol plays into sexual assault and the difficulty about discussing this issue without getting into victim blaming. Professor West introduced a conversation about how to deal with sexual assault within specific communities that the survivor may be a part of, specifically the African American community. The students also extensively discussed issues of consent and how to be comfortable asking for consent as well as barriers to communication. During the discussion, Jax Thanh-Han Le (’18) contributed “I think it goes back to this entire mindset of entitlement and women not understanding that verbal consent is necessary but in a lot of cases that doesn’t happen, especially on college campuses. We rely on body language and that’s where things can go wrong because people make assumptions that sex is wanted.” Drew’s own upstander initiative was brought up in conversation and how hard it can be to be an upstander in instances that could lead to sexual assault. Nicole Arias (’17) brought up how students love to participate in campaigns, such as the It’s On Us campaign started by the Obama administration, but when faced with an actual situation in which they could take action, “They did exactly what they said they wouldn’t do.” Another dialogue that took place was how survivors are often ostracized. Coach Hirschberg brought up the issue of lack of education on campus, and when discussing the Title IX education for athletes, he said “There is no dialogue, no discourse,” but rather a direct information given to the students without much actual interaction. He said the biggest contributors towards this culture is the lack of education as well as the level of maturity in college students. He also discussed the idea of “locker room talk” and how this idea actually can perpetuate stereotypes about athletes. The conversation then turned to how this culture can be changed specifically on Drew’s campus.
James Mandala, a member of the counseling center, was present for the discussion. When asked about what he thought about rape culture on Drew’s campus, he commented that “the critical thing is that people are talking about issues that are really real. I think this is a good start. We’re seeing a lot of activities being done, you know there was an earlier event today related to Title IX.” The counseling center is one of the many resources on campus for survivors of sexual assault or harassment to report. Student Life and Affairs’ Program Coordinator (SEVIS Coordinator) Stephanie Bias said “my office works on the new student orientation and we work with counseling to really try to bring this home. This topic is really important and every year we are trying to adjust our programing to make it as impactful as possible.”
Although Drew has made some great strides in educating the campus and creating a safe space for students, there is still a long way for the US to come as a society to battle rape culture.