Minnesota student leaders team up for sexual assault prevention

Several students spoke with the White House last week about campus sexual assault issues.

Minnesota student leaders team up for sexual assault prevention

Blair Emerson

As colleges nationwide continue talks on how to address sexual assault on campus, students from Minnesota colleges are banding together to discuss their own ways to address the problem.

And though University of Minnesota student leaders say the institution is well-equipped to tackle issues of campus sexual assault, some from the University’s coordinate campuses and smaller colleges in the state say their schools need to focus more on prevention and increase awareness about resources available for students.

Last week, student leaders from two dozen colleges across Minnesota took part in a conference call with the White House to discuss how students can work together to address sexual assault concerns on their campuses.

In addition to conducting conference calls with student leaders from every state, the White House will roll out a new campaign this fall that will encourage college students to speak up against sexual assault.

“There are a lot of big decisions being made at a national level, and certainly at a state level and a local level, where students should be bigger players,” said Andy MacCracken, executive director of the National Campus Leadership Council, a group that works with student government leaders that facilitated the conversation with the White House.

Some student government leaders said they specifically want to expand the discussion of sexual assault prevention and awareness to include more men, student athletes and those in greek life.

Discussing the issue with the school’s captains of their athletic teams could be helpful, said Becca Giles, president of Carleton College’s student association, because they set an example for their teammates.

Minnesota State University-Moorhead’s  student government president Cody Meyer said the issue is especially important to address within fraternities because men should be a part of the solution.

“As a fraternity leader, I need to speak to my fraternity men, or men of other chapters, and say, ‘Hey, we need to have this conversation. This is something we need to talk about,’” he said.

Expanding awareness across campuses

Though some say the University’s Twin Cities campus is a leader in advocating for sexual assault awareness and prevention, students and administrators from other campuses in the system say more could be done on those campuses.

“I think that a lot of the work will have to be done at Morris internally,” said Jayce Koester, secretary of campus relations for the Morris Campus Student Association.

She added that students and administrators should work to ensure their sexual assault programs are always up-to-date.

“It’s up to us as a campus to make sure that our administration is doing everything that it can,” she said.

Sandy Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs at the Morris campus, said the school’s programming for first-year students focuses more on what to do if students are victims of sexual assault, but it could increase its prevention efforts — an initiative she said school leaders are currently working on.

Olson-Loy said she’s happy students are getting involved to raise awareness for the issue and would like to continue to collaborate with students on addressing the matter.

“As more students get engaged in the work, then we can all be good partners to really try to have an impact on this issue,” she said.

The University last month announced plans to release a campus climate survey that will go out to the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. Olson-Loy said Morris campus leaders are also considering a campus climate survey.

Along with Morris, the Rochester campus is currently evaluating the resources it has for students.

Rochester’s Student Activities Coordinator Dauline Menze said the school is talking about what other services it could offer to students and how to make sure students know about them.

Within the next year, the school is hoping to add a class designed to teach female students how to defend themselves if they’re attacked, she said.

“At this point, I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but I think there’s always room to grow,” she said.