by Bridget Blain ’19
Members of the Providence College community were invited to attend an open forum to discuss the issue of sexual assault on campus on Tuesday April 4. The forum was also intended to address and explain the recent changes that the College has made to their sexual assault and Title IX policies.
The purpose of a forum is to create an environment where concerns and ideas can be openly shared and discussed. The majority of this forum, however, was spent introducing members of the College faculty and explaining what their role in dealing with sexual assault on campus is.
This was necessary and helpful information to give, but it should not have taken over an hour to do so. But there was a greater issue at hand. There were barely any students at the forum. From the outside, the forum looked full, but in reality, most of those seats were filled by the people who were there to talk about their job. The ratio between faculty members and students was so disproportionate that when students were finally asked to participate in the forum, only three questions were asked.
It is troubling that a forum about an issue that affects so many students in such a significant way was so poorly attended. The administration is not solely at fault for the low turnout. Students cannot be forced to attend and speak at an event that they do not want to go to.
Despite this, the administration does need to take some responsibility. Sexual assault is a serious problem for colleges across the country and it is the responsibility of every administration to make sure students are aware and informed. Sexual assault is an issue that also needs to be addressed by the administration in a much more public way —not through a forum that was barely advertised in the first place. There were no posters around campus, it was not even mentioned on the weekly event cards placed on every table at Ray. Productive discussion between faculty and students is already difficult enough to achieve, let alone when one party is not even being encouraged to participate.
If the administration wants students to take sexual assault seriously, a forum that so few people attended (or even knew about) that spent almost the entire time introducing faculty is not the way to go.
There need to be many more interactive events between students and the administration about not only sexual assault, but also consent and other related topics as well.
Students need to be taught consent along with what to do if an assault does happen, not just one or the other. Discussing with students what their options and resources are after sexual assault occurs is crucial, but does little when in terms of preventing future assaults. The administration needs to incorporate the importance of consent when dealing with the topic of sexual assault on campus. Students who have experienced assault need to know how they will be supported and protected by the College. A poorly promoted forum that was run more like a staff meeting does not accomplish this.