BY IMANI HOLLOMAN AND ANGELIQUE ARINTOK
STUDENT – Justine Suegay
HOW HAS YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE AT MASON BEEN SO FAR?
My college experience at Mason has surpassed everything I thought it would be. Mason wasn’t where I had planned to go to college, but like the saying goes—everything happens for a reason. In my three years here, I can say that I’ve been challenged academically through the Honors College, and have realized my greatest passions in these classes. I’ve met professors and faculty that have also become life-long mentors. But, the most defining part of my college experience has been joining the Filipino Cultural Association (FCA) because of the organization itself, not to mention all of the work opportunities it has given me.
These multiple facets of my experience as a Mason student [have] presented me with my lowest moments, with packed schedules, constant stress and loss of motivation. But every college student goes through that same cycle, and it’s okay, because the same things that gave me my lows taught me how to overcome them and gave me my highest moments. I’ve met the best people, learned countless lessons, accomplished the most ambitious goals and so much more. These moments [have] shaped my best experiences, not only at Mason, but in life so far.
WHAT KEEPS YOU BUSY DURING YOUR FREE TIME?
…During my free time, I like reading articles and watching videos that teach me about Asian-American history and issues, civil rights, immigration and many other issues I’m passionate about. I’m privileged to learn some of these in my classes, but I’m always out to learn.
On a lighter note, I love watching food & travel videos, discovering new music and spending time with my friends, especially when it involves Asian food and boba.
DID YOU EVER EXPECT TAKING ON A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN A STUDENT ORGANIZATION?
As presumptuous as it may seem, I knew that I wanted to take a leadership position in college, but only for a group I would be passionate about. All throughout high school, and even before that, I recognized my passion for leadership and serving others. In high school, I had the tendency of taking on too much and spreading myself too thin when it came to leadership roles. Although I was passionate about some of the positions I took, some were just made to be resume builders.
At Mason, I told myself I’d only join one or two clubs, and do leadership in one. This was an easy decision when I joined FCA. Being an immigrant from the Philippines, combined with my desire to learn about and advocate for Filipino-American history, identity and issues, I knew that this was the student organization for me. So I did expect to take on leadership in college, I just didn’t know it was going to be the best time of my life.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS YOU’VE HAD AT MASON?
This is a tough one. I honestly am such a sentimental and an easily pleased person, so I’ve had a lot of memorable moments at Mason. That said, any time I’ve spent growing as a person and leader have been my favorite, as well as meeting new FCA members. When it comes to specific programming, I’ve enjoyed the two Asian Pacific American Coalition retreats I have attended, planning for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Immigration Monologues, our annual Philippine Culture Nights, International Week—even competing at the dance competition once—and studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.
ORGANIZATION – Mason For Survivors
WHAT IS THE MISSION STATEMENT OF MASON FOR SURVIVORS?
Mason for Survivors is a student coalition at George Mason University committed to working towards justice for survivors of sexual violence and safety for all students, demanding, including, but not limited to, that the university void any and all contracts or affiliations with Brett Kavanaugh, reform and increase staffing for the Title IX office, increase the capacity of current resources for survivors and create additional ones, and implement trauma-informed training for Mason Police.
SINCE STARTING THE ORGANIZATION THIS SEMESTER, HOW HAVE MASON STUDENTS RESPONDED TO IT?
In my personal opinion, the response from the student community has been much more welcoming than I expected it to be. However, the most common objection I hear from other students is that Kavanaugh was found innocent. This argument either ignores or misunderstands the fact that Kavanaugh never underwent a criminal trial, and that the Judiciary Committee did not have the authority to issue any verdict, whether it be guilty or not guilty. This argument also overlooks the fact that disaffiliation with Kavanaugh is only one of our demands, and that Kavanaugh’s hiring is only one part of a systematic oppression of survivors at GMU, which can be seen in many other circumstances—the incident of female students being filmed in the Innovation Hall restroom, the situation surrounding former student body President David Kanos, the situation surrounding the former director of the GMU Forensics team, Peter Pober, and the university’s lack of action in the wake of all of these incidents.
But, like I said before, aside from this objection, the student response to our efforts has overall been welcoming. 60 students gathered within days of Fourth Estate’s announcement of Kavanaugh’s hiring to begin the process of organizing against him. Our petition has reached upwards of 3,400 signatures in approximately three weeks, and so many of us marched to Merten Hall last week that we could hardly all fit into Vice President for University Life Pascarell’s office. Obviously, it’s hard to speak in absolutes, and I’m sure that there is at least some amount of Mason students who disagree with us, but in my experience it’s been humbling to see so many students come together in support of survivors, and to demand that GMU addresses the systemic issues and culture of silence surrounding sexual assault on this campus.
WITH THE TEACH-INS YOU’VE HOSTED AND THE PETITION HANDED OFF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR UNIVERSITY LIFE, ROSE PASCARELL, WHAT’S NEXT?
We delivered our petition to Vice President for University Life Rose Pascarell last week, but that by no means indicates that support of our cause has halted. New supporters are signing the petition even [now], and that trend shows no indication of stopping, in my opinion.
Our next planned event is a dialogue with graduate students on the Arlington campus about the university’s hiring of Brett Kavanaugh, its implications and opportunities for graduate students to take action with us. We have also launched an Alumni Non-Donation Pledge and Parent Non-Donation Pledge in order to give those who aren’t students, but still have proximity to the Mason community, a platform to let the university know that they stand with survivors and do not support Kavanaugh’s presence on our campus.
A town hall regarding Kavanaugh’s hiring, one of our demands, has been planned by the university for April 16. I would encourage anyone who’s uncomfortable with, feels harmed by or otherwise has questions about the circumstances surrounding Kavanaugh’s hiring to attend this town hall. But more than anything, what’s next is that we’re still going to be here, we’re still going to be speaking out and we will not yield until the university meets our list of demands.
HOW CAN PEOPLE JOIN AND/OR KEEP UPDATED WITH MASON FOR SURVIVORS?
They can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Mason4Survivors, or email us at email@example.com. We post updates and relevant news regarding the organization as well as any of our upcoming events on these social media platforms, so liking and following is the best way to stay informed and get involved in any future actions. The most immediate way you can help us is to show up to the town hall meeting scheduled for April 16.
Beyond following us on our social media and showing up to any actions we have planned or will plan in the future, the best thing you can do to support us, in my opinion, is to believe and unconditionally support any survivors you know. It may be difficult to understand from the perspective of a non-survivor. But, for me, as a survivor, the university’s hiring of Kavanaugh has been an incredibly re-traumatizing experience. After watching three separate abusers, one of them being my own, face little to no repercussions for their actions last year, the university’s decision to hire Kavanaugh really made me realize that there’s a culture of silence and systemic mistreatment of survivors that has permeated this university for far too long. I can’t speak for other survivors, but what I do feel comfortable saying is that we need the support of our communities and friends now more than ever.
If you are a survivor and find yourself in need of support and resources, you can contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-993-3686.
STUDENT – Liz Aveni
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING?
So, I’ve been an off-campus student since freshman year, and they sent me an email my freshman year saying that I needed to meet with an off-campus advisor to learn about resources off-campus and all that. And so I went in for the first time my freshman year, and I really liked the office. I really liked my experience there, and so since I’m an off-campus student they sent me an email when they were hiring, and I decided to check it out. So, I applied, and the rest is history. Now, I’m an advisor.
WHAT PART OF YOUR JOB DO YOU LIKE THE MOST?
Working with students. There’s obviously office work and stuff like that, but my favorite part is working one-on-one with students: getting to sit in on appointments with them, meet with them one-on-one, … learn more about them, and figure out ways I can help them and impact them directly here at Mason.
WHAT SERVICES ARE OFFERED THROUGH THE OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING ORGANIZATION?
So, off-campus housing, our office, we help students mainly with housing. So, we help them find housing off campus, we have a website, och.gmu.edu. Students use it, we show them—literally sit with them, walk through it step-by-step with students. We show them all the listings available, help them find more specifically what they are looking for and are really just a source of comfort and assurance throughout that process, so they’re not just panicking, [so] they know there’s people who actually care and are invested in them. In addition to that, we meet with students and help them find resources around campus that are helpful to them. So, we recommend CAPS, SSAC, Student Involvement, stuff like that. So, other organizations on campus we’ll recommend them to as well.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO SOLVE STUDENT’S CONCERNS ABOUT OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING?
So, a main concern is just money with students, finding off-campus housing or like certain income—if it’s consistent or not. And another one is transportation, so obviously there is (sic) other concerns, but money and transportation are the biggest ones. In regards to money, I always recommend students to financial aid, but I also relate to them with my own experiences and my own financial struggles, and let them know that ‘I’m still making it, you can make it,’ like we’ll work through it together.
In addition to that transportation, Mason has so many shuttle services that students don’t know about. So, I also recommend to them [to our] transportation website, which is just transportation.gmu.edu, so I’ll recommend students to that as well. But, there’s also a bunch of different filters and options on our housing website that shows students … places closer to areas that have bus routes or Metro access, so those are the first ways I immediately solve those problems.
WHAT DO YOU DO AS AN OFF-CAMPUS STUDENT AT MASON?
So, a lot of my time is spent working as an advisor, but a lot of it also going out and about, meeting students at events, working events, getting to know students more. And then in my down time, I do a lot of homework. I’ve met a lot of friends through clubs and activities here at Mason through GetConnected. So I spend a lot of my time on campus even though I’m off. I spend a lot of time on campus using all the resources that are available to me and getting involved in clubs and stuff like that.
WHAT ORGANIZATIONS ARE YOU IN?
So, I found all the organizations that I’m in through GetConnected. I’m in Mason Intervarsity, which is a Christian fellowship group. I sing at the Catholic Campus Ministry, they needed singers for their choir, so I sing with them. And then I’m also involved in PSAG-board, which is [the] President Student Advisement Group with President Cabrera. … Oh, I did intramurals all my freshman year as well.