Aurora Center sees increased traffic; calls for more funding

The center is aiming to expand its staff through the Fund Aurora campaign this month.

<p>Artist Muna Abdulahi perfroms spoken word inside Northrop during an event hosted by the Aurora Center honoring the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.</p>

Easton Green

Artist Muna Abdulahi perfroms spoken word inside Northrop during an event hosted by the Aurora Center honoring the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Max Chao

The Aurora Center at the University of Minnesota is calling for more staff, programming and funding during April in response to increasing student needs.

The Fund Aurora campaign will go through the second half of April, coinciding with Sexual Assault Awareness Month efforts, which started with an on-campus candlelight vigil Friday night. Several campus groups are also running separate efforts to support the center. 

The Aurora Center, a campus resource offering treatment and education on sexual assault, saw around a 62 percent increase in traffic from spring 2017 to spring 2018. 

This increase is likely due to increased awareness of the center brought by the President’s Committee to Prevent Sexual Misconduct, which launched last year, said Minnesota Student Association President Trish Palermo. 

“[That] is a very significant increase. It’s important that we take a look at that and we respond to that by providing the Aurora Center with additional staffing,” Palermo said.

While this spike hasn’t caused a negative impact on service provided to visitors, it strained the existing full-time direct care staff, said Katie Eichele, director of the Aurora Center.

Along with a self-run fundraiser with a goal of $10,000, the Aurora Center requested $56,000 in student service fees last month to continue funding for its men’s engagement coordinator.

Malik Mitchell, the coordinator, has been on campus since 2015 and trains male bystanders to actively prevent sexual misconduct and also works directly with male survivors. 

“It’s such a valuable position,” Eichele said.

Campus groups are voicing their support for the center as well. MSA will vote on a resolution on April 10 which calls for funding for a third legal advocacy coordinator.

The resolution also asks for the implementation of Callisto, a program created by a sexual assault survivor that allows others to report assaults more easily.

MSA specifically requested that the new staffer be equipped with cultural competency training so they can better serve students who may be hesitant to visit the center, Palermo said.

“Different cultures treat sexual misconduct differently, and depending on what that may be, there may be a trigger or they might not understand how to be open or speak up about it,” said Jael Kerandi, an MSA intern on the sexual assault task force. 

MSA interns are hosting a dinner on April 22 focused on sexual misconduct, especially among people from different backgrounds and international students. The dinner will include a panel of speakers to discuss and raise awareness of the issue, Kerandi said. 

In addition to its work with the Aurora Center, MSA will officially launch the It Ends Here campaign — partnering with groups around campus. 

As part of the campaign, an MSA-produced video will air ahead of the Gopher football team’s spring game on April 14 and players will don a logo of support on their helmets. 

“It’s been a huge, awesome collaborative effort with the Athletics department,” Palermo said. 

Kayla Song contributed reporting for this article.