By: Sophia Upshaw, Roosevelt @ Mason
I had just moved into my dorm for my freshman year at Syracuse University. I sat in the bathroom down the hall and saw a flyer posted on the back of the stall door. It read, “Seeking support for sexual assault, harassment, relationship violence, or stalking?” Below, it provided emergency contact numbers, confidential reporting options, resources for more information, and listed students’ rights and Title IX protections. Although this flyer wasn’t applicable to my own experience, I felt secure in the knowledge that if I ever needed help, I would only have to look so far as any bathroom stall on the entire campus.
A year later, I transferred to Mason. From the banners in the Johnson Center, Student Government’s Patriots in Action week, and the It’s on Us campaign visiting our school, I concluded that this campus was committed to protecting the safety and security of its students. But it felt like something was missing. From my eyes, I could see the absence of a resource I had valued so much at my previous school every time I went to the restroom.
Long time Roosevelt @ Mason member Kaelyn Vitale conducted a recent survey that shed light on how unaware students were of available resources on campus. The survey asked respondents to select which offices on campus were responsible for reviewing reports of sexual assault or a similar crime and had the authority to initiate an official investigation and response.
Out of more than 240 students surveyed, only one could identify all of the correct reporting resources (The Office of Compliance, Diversity and Ethics, Code of Student Conduct, and Mason Police). From the results of this survey and from personally inquiring friends and peers, I realized that the lack of this knowledge among students proved to be more damaging to our campus climate than even the lack of using it.
I drafted a flyer over winter break, modeling it after the flyer I saw countless times before, but adjusted the information to reflect Mason’s resources. I consulted friends, members of Roosevelt, and even peer mentors at the Student Support and Advocacy Center for their suggestions, concerns, and advice regarding the flyer. It was important that the language in the flyer was gender-neutral, sensitive, yet informative. It was also important to stress that there were other sexual assault resources on campus, like free HIV testing, and a difference between confidential and non-confidential reporting.
As a commuter student, I also stressed the importance of not only including the flyers in residence halls but also academic buildings and student centers. I approached university offices focused on student life, facilities, housing, student centers, mental health, and student safety. I sent emails, made phone calls, dropped into offices, searching for anyone who had the authority to approve and implement this measure.
I ran into dry periods where I would receive no replies and busy weeks where I had meeting after meeting with university faculty and staff. There were several times where I lost hope of the initiative ever being passed and it was only because of unwavering support from members of Roosevelt and Student Government that my perseverance eventually paid off. As I made my way through a maze of bureaucracy, the news of this initiative resounded throughout the administration until it made its way to the Dean of Students herself.
Nine months later, I am thrilled to say that this initiative is being implemented this semester thanks to the interest and dedication of the Office of Student Life, Mason Police, and the Office of Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics. As students who came to Mason for an education, our safety, privacy, and enrichment should be the university’s priority. Based upon the passing of this initiative and the response from administration, it is evident that the school is now more aware and intent on not only listening to but also addressing the needs of its students. It has been a great privilege to witness active change on campus. It is an even greater joy to see its outcomes, that empower, inform, and protect lives.
Photo Courtesy of Mason Creative Services