Sunbathing and frisbee-tossing students in the Superblock courtyard, where Territorial, Centennial, Pioneer and Frontier residence halls converge, participated in the launching of an anti-sexual violence initiative — though they did not know it when it started.
University President Mark Yudof announced “Expect Respect,” an initiative that provides additional training for Program Against Sexual Violence advocates and free cellular phones for the program’s on-call staff members.
“Expect Respect” also includes a renewed publicity effort with University student-athletes to increase sexual-violence awareness through campus role models.
“There is a number of things that we can do as a community,” Yudof said. “But there is no substitute for community awareness and community participation.”
The anti-sexual violence program is working with men’s and women’s athletics and Verizon Wireless, a cellular phone company.
“This is a subject that can affect each and every one of us, and it deserves all of our attention,” said Tom Moe, men’s athletics director. “Let’s make this University an example to the country and to the world.”
Some students at the Superblock area, however, seem more interested in the free ice cream and root-beer floats provided during the announcement.
Darin Durand, an elementary education senior and Territorial Hall community adviser, criticized the event’s organizers for not adequately informing students of the reason for the event — most were only attracted to the ice cream floats, he said.
Some students thought the free ice cream was part of the weeklong Spring Jam events.
College of Liberal Arts students Brooke Pedersen, Kim Cera and Kristin Moneymaker said event organizers asked them to stand next to the ice cream tent during the speeches.
However, because of the event, Pedersen, Cera and Moneymaker became familiar with the Program Against Sexual Violence.
“Whatever can bring students together to at least hear what is going on in the community — it is worth it,” said Jonda Hammons, executive assistant for women’s intercollegiate athletics, who scooped ice cream for an hour. “It’s wonderful that both men and women can get together and share the beliefs of nonviolence on our campus.”
“Expect Respect” is funded by a $7,500 grant from the cell-phone company. The grant will fund a campuswide poster and bookmark campaign, one year of cell-phone service for the program’s on-call staff members and training to help program advocates become more sensitive to victims’ experiences.
“When people think of cell phones, besides convenience, they also think safety,” said Karen Smith, a Verizon spokeswoman. “This is a nice way to tie together our sponsorship of men’s and women’s athletics with safety and initiative on campus.”
Since July 1999, the anti-sexual violence program has aided 135 victims on campus, mostly for date rape, child sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. An average of 14 assaults were reported monthly.
“We want an opportunity to stand up and say, ‘This University expects our students, staff and faculty to treat everyone with respect,'” said Jamie Tiedemann, the program’s director.
The program has sponsored various campus events to mark April as Sexual Awareness Month, including a clothing and toiletries donation drive and Take Back the Night rally.
Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]