Students in professor Traci Voyles’ Women’s Studies Senior Seminar class hosted a feminist think tank on Monday. The discussion addressed a range of subjects such as intersectionality and the effectiveness of LMU CARES. The event was part of Herstory Month, a month to celebrate influential women in America’s history and those who worked hard to ensure a more equal society for future generations.
According to Voyles, she has not given a group an assignment like this before, but the students were well prepared and delved into topics such as sexual assault and victim blaming.
“I think it was a success. I thought the students did a very good job of representing their approach to the issue as a whole, and it was a really good example of student initiative,” said Voyles.
The 13 students in charge split the think tank into three subtopics: LMU CARES, LGBTQ inclusivity and other campus resources and initiatives designed to deal with sexual assault awareness and prevention. Each group spoke for about 20 minutes, allowing members to speak on different aspects of their issue.
The group covering LMU CARES spoke about the current system, which deals with sexual assaults on campus and surrounding issues such as confidentiality. Currently, if a student reports an incident of abuse to a faculty member, that “responsible employee” is required by LMU policy to report this immediately to school officials. The students argued that for students who are unaware of the confidential staff policy, this reporting can damage the trusting relationship built over time between teachers and students, and can cause the student to be fearful of talking to anyone about the incident, even at the overbooked Student Psychological Services (SPS).
Senior history major Britani Letcher, one of the think tank participants, disagreed with the language on the LMU CARES website. Letcher said that it is “out of touch with college students,” and “seem[s] to be written from a perspective of an adult who thinks that this is what someone going through an assault could experience.”
LGBTQ inclusivity in LMU CARES was also discussed. Students argued that the binary use of “he” and “she” leaves LGBTQ members who go by different pronouns feeling invisible and unsafe. The students expressed their belief that intersectionality, which is the acknowledgement that oppression is influenced by multiple factors such as race, sexuality, class or age, can help solve this problem of division between oppressed groups through open discussions and understanding.
The last subgroup covered policies of other colleges, such as Santa Clara University which has a student center focused on its confidential policies. Another program, the Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Hotline (SARAH) at Washington University in St. Louis is a 24/7 student-run help line that anyone can call at any time to talk to a trained volunteer. The University of Michigan also has a student and faculty-run support group for victims of sexual assault. These programs were outlined at the think tank to show what LMU could be doing to further benefit those going through traumatic experiences.
“I liked that it was students taking over, because usually when you talk about sexual assault it’s always from a faculty professor,” said junior psychology major Jasmine Harris. “They were saying what I was thinking in my head about LMU CARES: I like it, but I think there should be improvements.”