Students fundraise for Aurora Center; push for UMN to fund it

Student groups come together to help raise funds.

The Aurora Center director Katie Eichele leads a group exercise at the Aurora Center's all-volunteer training at Elliott Hall on Feb. 4, 2014. The goal of the exercise was to keep balloons, representing sexual assault victims, off the ground and emphasizes how agencies have different policies regarding sexual assault victims and how easy it is for the victims to fall through the cracks with miscommunication between agencies.

Chelsea Gortmaker

The Aurora Center director Katie Eichele leads a group exercise at the Aurora Center’s all-volunteer training at Elliott Hall on Feb. 4, 2014. The goal of the exercise was to keep balloons, representing sexual assault victims, off the ground and emphasizes how agencies have different policies regarding sexual assault victims and how easy it is for the victims to fall through the cracks with miscommunication between agencies.

Natalie Rademacher

Student leaders are pushing school administrators to allocate more funding to the Aurora Center.

To help erase budget deficits and encourage the University of Minnesota to allocate additional resources to the center — which provides resources on sexual assault prevention, education and support for survivors — several student groups on campus are fundraising for the center this week.

From resume critiques to Krispy Kreme stands, student groups are offering goods and services around campus and donating the proceeds to the Aurora Center.

“[The Aurora Center] has been a huge support for me. They have always backed me up on anything I needed,” said Kayla Pederson, a sexual assault survivor and University student who said she has received support from the center for the past year and a half.

Student leaders organizing the push say the center is underfunded and has been unable to hire additional staff to meet demands for its services — just as sexual assault reports and the number of University sexual misconduct investigations have surged in recent years.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the groups had raised over $4,200, according to the fundraising website.

Minnesota Student Association President Abeer Syedah helped organize the fundraiser, along with other student leaders from groups including Her Campus and She’s the First, among others.

“Anyone can participate,” she said. “We are not asking millennials to get up and do something extravagant.”

The University declined to make and Aurora Center representative available for an interview, but in an emailed statement, Megan Sweet, chief of staff for the Office of Student Affairs, confirmed that the center is running on a deficit. Still, she said the funding shortfall hasn’t affected the center’s services.

When asked if the center has seen increased demand for its services amid increased sexual assault awareness and reports at the University, Sweet said she couldn’t answer the question.

The University also didn’t provide funding data for the Aurora Center.

Since this is the first large-scale fundraiser that students have conducted for the Aurora Center, staff are unsure, but hopeful about the outcome, Sweet said.

“We appreciate the students’ efforts around fundraising,” she said in the email. “We look forward to continuing to partner with students to respond to their needs and priorities in alignment with the Aurora Center’s mission, goals, and common good at the University.”

The fundraiser kicked off on Sunday with a panel discussion, and groups will continue to raise money through Saturday.

“Why can’t we fundraise for someone who does so much for us?,” Syedah said.