The following is also published as a Wespeak in today’s Argus. Keep an eye out for a response from the administration:
The one-year anniversary of Johanna Justin-Jinich’s murder is fast approaching. This Thursday, May 6th will mark for the Wesleyan community one year that has passed since we lost Johanna in what was undeniably one of the most horrific acts of violence this campus has, and ever will, experience. Her murder was a hate crime, a ruthless act of gender violence and anti-Semitism.
Gender violence is a persistent problem on this campus, as was once again brought to the fore by the recent Wespeaks written by students who have been sexually assaulted at Wesleyan, as well as those written by staff and students calling for greater administrative accountability to issues of gender violence prevention and response. Additionally, at the forum on campus violence on Tuesday, April 27th, students, staff, and alumni came together to discuss possible improvements to Wesleyan resources.
Students have been working with the university for years to improve University policy, response, and prevention around issues of sexual and gender violence on campus but still have found little sustained administrative support. The only way more effective resources, policies, and prevention efforts can be put into place is to establish a full-time staff position that would be responsible for advocating on behalf of survivors of sexual and gender violence, heading sustained prevention efforts, and helping all members of the Wesleyan community work together to build a campus that is safe for everyone. Safety means a community in which everyone is accountable for creating an environment that promotes respect, consent, critical thinking, and sex-positivity.
Persistent student pressure on the administration resulted in the creation of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Intern, but this position alone cannot adequately address a campus climate of gender violence. The intense responsibilities of the position are too demanding for any one student to carry out effectively. Although there are various support systems in place for students (i.e. the faculty/staff on SART & OBHS), it is unfair and unsustainable that the only person on campus who is paid to be specifically knowledgeable about sexual assault and gender violence is a ten hour per week student position that isn’t even written into a specific departmental budget. The Intern position currently gets its funding through the SBC.
The University has a responsibility to invest in a staff position which would allow us to address this pervasive violence. This isn’t a question of available funding, but a question of priorities. Comparable schools such as Barnard, Amherst, Trinity, Bates, Bard, Skidmore, Bowdoin, Colorado College, Lewis and Clark, Whitman, and Brown have invested in at least one staff position, and it’s time for Wesleyan to follow suit.
The above document circulated via the internet for only three days and, in that time, received formal support from 536 members of the Wesleyan community: 405 students, 47 alum, 37 parents/family members, and 27 members of the Wesleyan faculty/staff.