Protest April 30

Students and community members gathered in front of Old Main on Friday to protest how the University of Arkansas has handled past sexual assault cases. The group marched around Old Main with signs demanding the UofA change how sexual assault cases are dealt with on campus. 

Members of the UA community came together Friday afternoon to protest the university's handling of sexual assault cases and their treatment of survivors.

Roughly 200 students and community members congregated on Old Main lawn while speakers discussed their experiences with sexual assault, before the group marched in a loop around the lawn. Chants of “We will not be silent!” rang from the group.

Emma Presley, a sixth-year student, and a group of other female students who want to see change at the university organized the event. 

“I think for concrete change we need there to be change in things that aren’t concrete,” Presley said. “I don’t know everything in the whole world, but I am open to being informed. It’s changing the stigma of believing someone.”

Friday’s protest came a week after one organized by the Graduate-Professional Student Congress on April 23. The protests are a part of a larger conversation that started in February after an email sent by university officials ignited talk on campus about victim blaming.

The discussion was further ignited when Gillian Gullett, a spring 2020 graduate, shared on Twitter that the UofA paid a $20,000 settlement to her attacker, who was sentenced 10 hours of community service. The student had accused the university of mishandling a 2017 sexual assault allegation against him after a Title IX panel found him responsible for the assault. 

Sloan Teeuwen, a junior, thinks that this movement at the UofA should not fizzle out and needs to be a common dialogue within the university in order to hold community members accountable. 

“I think with everybody coming together in a conclusive manner it shows that we are tired of the bulls--- that has been happening and the way that women are treated on campus,” Teeuwen said. 

Gullett shared five demands to the university as a step toward justice for survivors and a petition for students to sign on twitter April 25. The five demands include a $20,001 donation to efforts supporting survivors, the campus-wide implemntation of the Callisto app, additional trauma-informed staff, course curriculum on sexual violence for freshman, and that the university honor the Title IX policy that students have the right to know the status of an investigation at any time, including lawsuits.

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz agreed to meet on April 27 via Zoom with Gullett. Gullett shared that afternoon that the Chancellor agreed to meet all five demands.

Several students shared their experiences with sexual assault during their time at the UofA. There was a sign-making tent, and the organizers played music over the student radio station KXUA 88.3 FM, playing only “riot girl” radio all day, which includes girl boss tunes and feminist artists. Some attendees wrote down dozens of names of their alleged sexual abusers on a large poster calling for students to “expose a local predator below”. 

Lydia Fletcher, a junior who helped organize the event, said she stands in solidarity with any protest against the rape culture on the UA campus. She works with Presley and was included in the orchestrating.

Fletcher said that although she has not experienced assault during her time as a student, numerous people she knows and loves have been assaulted during their time as students.

“I’m sick and tired of this,” Fletcher said. “No woman, no student, should have to live in fear of their fellow classmates, teachers, or anyone in the area.” 

Fletcher said she and the other organizers will be keeping up with the university’s actions to ensure that officials meet and follow through with Gullett’s demands stated in the petition. 

In 2017, a survey taken by the UofA said that nearly ⅓ of survey participants agree that university officials could do more to protect students from harm. 

“The change would be in the administrators, and not just the administration and rules that exist,” Presley said. “These are rules written by people who were not at the protest today and did not stand in the hot sun to show solidarity with their students.”

 

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