Since its implementation in the fall, the "It's On Us" initiative continued working "to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported." SGA recently created a task force to discuss innovative ways to educate St. Olaf students about sexual assault.
The "It's On Us" student-run task force works to incorporate as many campus voices as possible. The task force was created by the SGA wellness subcommittee. It also has ties to the Wellness Center, SARN and the Gender and Sexuality Center.
"We wanted students feedback," wellness subcommittee leader Olivia Luther said. "Some people really want to have a voice with this issue, so we thought this was a really great way of giving students that opportunity to share what they think about the It's On Us task force, or how they think they can share their voice and prevent sexual assault."
While incorporating voices from all over campus, the task force was also able to include students from all years, which has helped ease the worry that campaign would not be sustainable beyond this year. First years such as Swannie Willstein '18 and Rita Thorsen '18 dove right in and assumed leadership positions in the policy subcommittee of the task force. Organization members encouraged them to contribute, take on leadership roles and work through the organization to not only make St. Olaf a safe environment, but also create tangible change.
"The task force has provided a situation where we all come to the table from different backgrounds and perspectives," Thorsen said. "But each opinion is equally valued, and it has propagated an environment in which we can be leaders."
The involvement of underclassmen is critical to making sure the organization continues to grow and make a difference.The task force deals with preventative issues, such as education and awareness. The changing of campus culture will take time and effort by the larger student body.
The task force is divided into three subcommittees, where members work on poster and video campaigns and review St. Olaf policy on assault. These three subcommittees are only starting points and organization members are open to other ideas for the task force. The subcommittee members in each group are not limited to their own individual committee, they are encouraged to contribute to all aspects of the organization.
The current video project will identify different terms such as consent and sexual assault and will also include resources for students to get more information.
"We plan to get students from all over campus so that when we launch this digital campaign, people will be tagged from all over campus," SGA president Rachel Palermo '15 said. "Their friends will then see the video, and hopefully take the time and watch it and learn about this education campaign."
The committee hopes that a social media campaign will spread the message to a large proportion of the student body. The poster campaign has similar goals. It aims to create slogans that not only incorporate the key pledges of the It's On Us campaign, but also provide another quick educational reminder about sexual assault in hopes of changing campus culture.
The policy subcommittee has worked on reviewing campus policy and reporting processes. They want to make their message as clear as possible in an attempt to alleviate some of the confusion that comes along with such a sensitive and complicated topic. The policy subcommittee also works closely with Dean Greg Kneser and other administration members who serve as advisors for the committee.
"The administration is extremely supportive, and they are faced with such a difficult task because each individual case is being so specific, and all of the codes and rule systems they need to follow," Willstein said. "But I know they are doing everything in their power and they care so much, it's just a really difficult situation."
The task force is always looking for new voices, and welcomes all students to come share ideas and get involved in an important and relevant issue. Meetings are at 6:30pm on Sundays in BC 143. All are welcome to come contribute or just listen and be a part of change.
"Sexual assault is an issue and it should be addressed," Palermo said. "It's not just a women's issue, it's an issue that effects everyone. It's so important for our society as a whole to get that, so we need to address it."
Graphic Credit: ETHAN BOOTE/MANITOU MESSENGER