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Students organize to prompt university administration to address sexual violence

Kymbeerly Irizarry (SHA and CAS '17) (right) speaks during “Sexual Assault at BU: Come Discuss the Letter to the Editor” at the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism Wednesday. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Kymbeerly Irizarry (SHA and CAS ’17) (right) speaks during “Sexual Assault at BU: Come Discuss the Letter to the Editor” at the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism Wednesday. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In response to a Letter to the Editor published in The Daily Free Press Tuesday, the Boston University Feminist Collective (FEMCO) hosted a town hall meeting Wednesday night to address the ways the BU administration responds to sexual violence reports across campus.

A female student who chose to remain anonymous wrote the letter about her experience as a victim of sexual assault, and said the university didn’t handle the situation adequately.

More than 100 people gathered in the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism to brainstorm the next steps for getting the administration to deal with issues related to sexual assault. Students worked in the meeting to create an action plan and list of tangible goals for the future.

Jessica Klein, the president of FEMCO, said she wanted to host this meeting to reinvigorate dialogue that had been occurring on campus over the past several weeks.

“The reason that I wanted to organize an event like this is because sexual assault awareness week ended about a week ago, and I was trying to find a way to keep this conversation going in a way that is sustainable,” said Klein, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, after the meeting.

Klein said the conversation is aimed to ignite conversation about the ways the university handles reports of rape and to point out holes in university policy. Organizers talked about plans to create more outlets for advocacy, resources and further staff and faculty training.

The group made a list of working demands based on what changes they want to see from the BU administration and what ways they plan to have university officials meet these demands.

“You have to have peers talking to peers about this in order for the culture to change internally,” said Garrett Moore, a senior in the College of Engineering, during the meeting.

Isabella Romano, a sophomore in CAS, told the crowd she wants to see greater nationwide awareness following the conversation had Wednesday evening.

“This is not just BU. This is college culture, and it needs widespread recognition,” she said. “Make BU that school, that when you think of BU, it’s immediate that you know people are doing something about this.”

After an initial brainstorming session, students split into groups to tackle various phases of the movement they want to start. Some focused on ways to address the administration through protests, letters and more conversations, while others talked about how to address sexual assault on a peer-to-peer level.

Kymbeerly Irizarry, a sophomore in CAS and the School of Hospitality Administration, said she wants BU to understand its mistakes and participate in the movement so that long-term change can occur.

“This isn’t the first time that it’s happened, and it won’t be the last. The letter riled me to the core,” she said during her small group discussion. “We need to submit a letter to administration. We need a protest and so much more. Something that opens the eyes of administration and makes them see how they’ve messed up … Nothing can be carried out before we hold administration accountable for their actions.”

Several attendees said they want #ThisCouldBU, a hashtag used by the anonymous author in the letter, to trend on all social media platforms by the end of the week as another way to raise awareness.

Sydney Throop, a junior in the College of Communication, said the use of the hashtag is the best way to reach out to a large group of people.

“The campaign starts here,” she said during the meeting. “Social media is what gets to the community. The hashtag is going to get to everyone and be seen by people all over.”

Caitlin Lawlor, a senior in CAS, said the movement will carry weight in the BU community and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“We as a campus, we are not letting go of this one, and that’s how we show it,” she said to the crowd.

Klein said FEMCO hopes to organize a demonstration that will encompass the themes from Wednesday’s meeting.

“This opportunity came up where people were really, really angry, and it was getting shared all over social media, and I wanted to harness that energy in kind of a movement of students led by students to demand things from their administration to kind of demand things that they may not have had the outlet to do before,” Klein said after the meeting.

By the close of the meeting, the group developed a mission statement to bring to BU President Robert Brown at a luncheon on Tuesday.

“We want to create a community of safety and empowerment for all Boston University students, especially survivors of sexual assault and rape,” according to the mission statement. “This will be accomplished by reform in administration, judicial procedures and campus culture.”

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  1. Russell S. Grand

    Though I graduated back in 1977 and only derive information from what I read online, the majority of press seems to indicate that the BU administration takes this issue very seriously and investigates allegations of sexual violence w/ strong resolve and commitment.