Harris: the bigger picture

The cancellation of Red Light Green Light unearthed sentiments on Grinnell’s campus to which we, as a cabinet, feel compelled to respond. First, an all campus email was sent out with the ACE schedule of events stating that we were still lacking a host for Red Light, Green Light. No one came forth expressing a desire to host the event. When students do not volunteer to host an event it sends us a message that the student body does not feel strongly about the event taking place. ACE is a resource for students to come to for funding and when they need help organizing logistics (such as venue reservations) for events that students want to host. Secondly, Red Light Green Light is a party that creates ambiguity about consent and it occurs very early in the year while students are still trying to navigate this new college experience. As an organization, we had no desire to be associated with this event. Our internal discussions about this party were reinforced by numerous students who voiced their concern to us about what goes on at RLGL.

Sexual assault, but also unwanted sexual communication and unwanted sexual touching are serious forms of misconduct experienced by many of our peers. These concerns affect over 32 percent of the respondents to our most recent sexual climate survey, and are not limited to certain groups or genders. Misconduct often starts or happens at Harris, Gardner, and off campus, and we cannot continue to separate and fail to link our substance and party culture from these heartbreaking outcomes for students. Most disheartening is the frightening reality that over 82 percent of students who experience an attempted or completed sexual assault do not report the incident on our campus. As members of a self-governing community, we must critically assess the decisions we make, programs we support and behaviors we permit. Ending sexual assault and empowering survivors to seek the help that they need is well within our power as a community. We as a student body should not tolerate an environment that is unsafe and unwelcoming for any person.

Throughout the year, there will be numerous opportunities for students to continue having these discussions and being a part of the change we need on this campus. We encourage you all to remain actively engaged in these discussions as they progress throughout the year. The first Campus Climate Town Hall will be September 24 at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. in JRC 101 and serves as a crucial opportunity to voice your feedback and concerns about campus efforts surrounding sexual misconduct, diversity, and alcohol issues. We encourage all students to attend and ask for civility, thoughtfulness, and honesty in your comments.

We as a student body should not tolerate an environment that is unsafe and unwelcoming for any person. There will be more to come from this year’s cabinet on these crucial challenges. We encourage you to come to our Campus Climate Town Hall, get informed, voice your opinion, and find ways to get involved.

If you have any questions or would like to continue this conversation, please reach out to VPSA Opeyemi Awe at [vpsa] or any member of the cabinet.