Professors discuss roles in preventing sexual assault

The University of Cincinnati kicked off Women’s History Month Tuesday with a Faculty Against Rape Workshop, an event with the goal of creating conversation surrounding the role faculty plays in preventing sexual assault on campus. The faculty attendance rate, however, was lower than expected.

“I was really surprised at the low attendance and believe more faculty should have attended,” said Tiffany Walker, a second-year political science and journalism student.

Walker was among the few students who gathered with faculty in Swift Hall to attend the workshop, which was sponsored by UC’s Charles Phelps Taft Research Center and the Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Simona Sharoni, a Gender and Women’s Studies professor at the State University of New York Plattsburgh, serves as the co-founder of the national organization Faculty against Rape and led Tuesday’s discussion.

According to its mission statement, the organization was founded in the spring of 2014 with the intent of encouraging faculty to become involved in the awareness of campus sexual assaults and to support survivors while simultaneously supporting students and other faculty to do the same.

“Faculty have not been visible in the movement to confront campus sexual assault as a group,” Sharoni said. “One of FAR’s objectives is to build a critical mass of faculty to support students in holding academic institutions accountable and making them safer, so we can do the job we were hired to do, that is, to teach and mentor students.”

Anne Runyan, women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor at UC, organized the workshop, as well as the Gender, War and Accountability: Palestinian Resistance and Feminist Solidarity talk that took place later in the evening. Sharoni served as a guest speaker at both events.

Runyan said she also hoped that more faculty members had attended the event.

The Faculty Against Rape Workshop was the third main event associated with the UC It’s On Us lecture series — part of a national campaign focused on campus sexual violence, which was brought to UC in November by the collaborative efforts of the Office of the Provost, UC’s Women’s Center, RECLAIM Peer Advocates, Student Government and other student leaders and advocates on and off campus.

During the discussion, Sharoni argued that sexual assault advocacy should be included in the agenda of faculty senates just as it is in the agenda of faculty unions. Faculty should also be consulted on evolving university policies and ongoing sexual assault research, Sharoni said.

During the workshop, Sharoni explained how faculty members throughout the country experience administrative scrutiny for their advocacy of supporting sexual assault survivors, and in some cases faculty members face major consequences, such as being dismissed from their positions.

UC faculty members have not been informed of any changes in their job descriptions concerning responsibilities regarding campus sexual assault or the level of involvement they are allowed to have in assisting survivors, Runyan said. Nor has any formal training been provided on UC’s campus to empower or aid its faculty in approaching sexual assault and assisting survivors.

Akshayaa Venkatakrishnan, a second-year biology and history student, learned about the event from Facebook and said she attended out of interest in learning the faculty’s perception on campus sexual assault.

“At the end of the day, we are students, faculty, staff and administration, but beneath all of those titles and terms, we were human beings with identities and experiences to value and respect,” Venkatakrishnan said. “It’s up to all of us to make sure that we educate, accept and appreciate the similarities and differences to create a safe and just community.”


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