The Columns

W&L to Host Representatives from Colleges Across Country in Second Annual Sexual Assault Summit

— by on February 27th, 2008

Washington and Lee University will host its second annual Sexual Assault Summit on Saturday, March 1, in the John W. Elrod Commons on its campus in Lexington, Va.

The summit, which will provide a forum for students, professionals and administrators from a range of college campuses to collaborate about efforts to address sexual misconduct, is co-sponsored by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the W&L student groups SPEAK, One in Four and Gender Relations Committee. It will include over 75 student and administrative representatives from 12 colleges and organizations.

“The Summit is an excellent opportunity for students and administrators to learn about sexual assault,” said Bill Larson, co-chairman of One in Four, a student organization whose purpose is to prevent sexual misconduct by educating men, and to prepare men to support women who are victims of assault. “I hope participants will come away with a better understanding of how sexual assault affects college campuses and Washington and Lee students in particular.”

“This year’s Summit will be another excellent opportunity for us to collaborate with other schools about their efforts in the prevention, education and adjudication of sexual misconduct cases,” added Jennifer Sayre, licensed clinical psychologist and university counselor at W&L. “This is sure to be an energizing and educational weekend that will help us at W&L build on our existing efforts to eradicate sexual misconduct on our campus.”

The program will kick off with a continental breakfast and an opening talk by Robert Franklin, male outreach coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health. Franklin has worked on issues of sexual and intimate partner violence since the early 1990’s. He has appeared on CNN’s America Morning, CBS’s Evening News, and Voice of America discussing a statutory rape campaign in Virginia that targets men with the slogan “Isn’t She a Little Young? Sex with a Minor, Don’t Go There.”

Franklin was awarded the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s 2007 National Award for Outstanding Response to and Prevention of Sexual Violence.

Following the opening talk, the summit will break into two discussion-based interest sessions focusing on ideas about prevention, intervention and community outreach programs submitted by participating institutions.

The interest sessions will be followed by a lunchtime talk by Gary Pavela, lecturer at the University of Maryland. Pavela teaches in the honors program at the University of Maryland and writes law and policy newsletters to which over 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada subscribe. Identified by the New York Times as an “authority on academic ethics,” Pavela has been a consultant on law and policy issues at many leading universities. He is the author of Questions and Answers on College Student Suicide: A Law and Policy Perspective.

The day will conclude with a third interest session and a panel discussion on “The Adjudication of Sexual Misconduct Cases” in the Stackhouse Theater of the Elrod Commons. Panelists will include Margaret Elkins, student chair of W&L’s Student-Faculty Hearing Board; Jennifer Sayre; Robert Franklin; Tamara Futrell, associate dean of students at W&L; Jennifer Underwood, victim services outreach coordinator at Virginia Tech; and Gene Zdziarski, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students at the University of Florida. The panel will be moderated by Dawn Watkins, dean of student affairs at W&L.

“I’m excited that W&L students and staff are at the forefront in higher education of pro-actively confronting issues of sexual violence through programs such as the Sexual Assault Summit,” said Watkins. “It takes courage and commitment to frankly discuss these issues, and it’s within the W&L spirit of student self-governance that our students are taking hold of a serious problem that affects college students across the country. I remain grateful to Dr. Sayre and others for the time and attention they give to this important and timely topic.”

The Summit is part of a week-long series of sexual assault awareness activities at W&L, including a public lecture by Michael Kimmel, author and professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater of Elrod Commons.

Kimmel’s talk, ” ‘Mars and Venus,’ or Planet Earth: Women and Men on Campus in a New Millennium,” will be followed by a Take Back the Night Rally at 8:30 in the Cohen Amphitheater.

SPEAK, a student organization aimed at decreasing and preventing sexual misconduct and assault on campus through awareness and education, will also distribute pink rubber bracelets bearing the slogan “Snap! Women Supporting Women” to the campus community. The bracelets are available in the sorority houses and at the security desk in the Elrod Commons.

“I am extremely excited about the week’s events,” said Paten Hughes, president of SPEAK “I can’t tell you how much I look up to the courageous women who are allowing their stories to be shared at the Take Back the Night Rally on Thursday, and the “Snap!” bracelets are going to be back on campus–the bright pink bands women and men will be wearing to show support of women. Basically, the idea is that every time you catch yourself disparaging yourself or another woman’s sexual choices, you ‘snap’ yourself out of it. It’s a way of reminding yourself that you should be supporting other women, not degrading them.”

“The Summit is a wonderful opportunity for Greek and non-Greek members of our campus to stand up and express concern about such a huge problem,” Hughes continued. “It is our problem and it’s time for us to take responsibility for it.”

If you are interested in attending part or all of the Summit but have not yet registered, please contact Dr. Sayre at sayrej@wlu.edu or register online. Registration is $35 for students and $75 for professionals.