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Columns

Isman ’15: A long-lasting conversation on preventing sexual assault

By
Opinions Columnist
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The administration has been working hard to prevent sexual assault on campus in the aftermath of last semester’s incidents. The new alcohol policies on campus have received mixed responses, and they definitely demonstrate a concerted effort to prevent sexual assault. But they have also overshadowed another very important move by the University.

The men’s health coordinator position, created at the beginning of this academic year, is a very important addition to the health repertoire on campus. The position’s existence — and Brown’s hiring someone to take it — demonstrates an understanding that education can help prevent sexual assault and that men should be involved in the discussion as well. It allows for a shared responsibility by making sure that we are teaching both men and women about different ways to prevent sexual assault rather than focusing on how a victim could protect him or herself.

Marc Peters, the men’s health coordinator, is working alongside fraternities and sports teams to have discussions about what “healthy masculinity” means. His role is to mediate conversations that could lead to a better understanding of how we present ourselves and interact with others.

Often, sexual assault is portrayed as a women’s issue, so we focus on teaching young women how to protect themselves and their female friends. As The Herald reported Feb. 6, “the creation of (Peters’) role shows the University is looking to change this misperception.” Eradicating this misconception that sexual assault is a women’s issue rather than everyone’s issue and creating the space to have productive conversations will help instill a stronger sense of camaraderie in the student population and a heightened recognition of how we can all help.

Peters’ position is aimed at “understanding health, emotions and your own perceptions and interactions with people,” as Grant Senne, president of Brown’s Theta Delta Chi chapter, told The Herald. Peters’ role is to help individuals develop a better sense of themselves rather than to point fingers and chastise all males on campus. These conversations are opening up the floor to talk about sexual assault seriously in a way that is not usually permitted due to the stigma surrounding sexual assault. It is a move toward improving the health of the Brown community as a whole.

While calling it a men’s health coordinator might make it seem that the University is focusing only on how men can help and change their behaviors, Peters insisted to The Herald that “his position is ‘all-encompassing’ for people of all gender identities.” These talks will not only positively benefit men’s health, but they will also have a positive impact on women’s — and people of all genders’ — health. Thus, it is clear that as a community we are trying to move away from the gendered associations of sexual assault and are coming to understand it for what it really is: a violation of someone’s body that can happen to anyone. It puts sexual assault on campus into a different perspective and demonstrates that everyone should be working together to prevent it.

While the new alcohol policies — banning alcohol service at large organized events in residence halls — will hopefully make a positive impact in combating sexual assault on campus, they are more of a short-term solution. Peters’ presence on campus will have a more long-term impact by leading to educational opportunities and facilitating constructive conversations rather than trying to sweep issues under the rug. Starting the conversation is the hard part, but once it becomes a habit, different communities on campus will initiate the conversations themselves.

Peters’ role on campus is not only “emphasizing the role that men can play in preventing violence” but also allowing for new means of communication. Fostering discussion on masculinity and sexual violence is a productive and hopefully long-lasting way to make campus safer for everyone.

Sami Isman ’15 thinks this position deserves more praise than the alcohol policies.

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  1. These are just a lot of useless goddamned words. Not a goddamned thing has happened to hold Brown University rapists to account, or to deter likely future rapes. Chris Paxson is too busy converting from being a Quaker to being a Jew and admiring the Brown University brand, and hiking our tuition by 5 times the inflation rate while giving pathetic excuses for budget deficits, and pathetic excuses for everything. Nobody does anything around here, except to listen to themselves talk and to see the talkers holding their audience in orgasmic awe.

    • Of all the things I have grown to expect on a sexual-assault piece comments section, casual anti-antisemitism was not one of them.

      • Oh lord, I’m full of typos today.

      • That Chris Paxson converted from a Quaker to a Jew is a fact. All her other failings (and she has many) is about herself, not about her being a Jew. Anything semitic, or anti-semitic, or anti-anti-semitic is in your head, and not in any of the comments.

        • Her converting to Judaism is completely irrelevant to pretty much anything she does as Brown’s president, other than light Shabbat candles at Hillel. When it’s listed with negative tone alongside her “failings,” then yes, I’m going to read it Jew-hating.

          • Read it anyway you want. Who cares? The point is that she is self absorbed. Same comment would be valid if she had converted into a Martian. (As a matter of fact, she might have done that too.) Don’t know how absorbed she is with her job. The self absorptions shows. The absorption with the job does not. p.s. I love Jewish people (minus Chris Paxson, that is).

  2. If brown cared about stopping sexual assault wouldn’t they have targeted the QA like they targeted the Greek houses? The QA openly admitted in blue stockings that SPG facilitated rape over multiple years. Banning the QA for 4 years doesn’t have quite the same PR boost that banning phi psi does though.

    and of course let’s not forget that campus rapes don’t ever happen at parties not held by student groups – parties which are still allowed.

    • Your Comment is Poorly Argued says:

      The QA changes leadership each year and its membership varies dramatically. There is little that is ‘institutional’ about the QA, unlike Greek houses which are based on the idea of a lasting ‘fraternity’ that persists over time. The QA also hosts few parties on campus where they do not serve alcohol. When the QA does host parties, it attempts to make them as safe as possible, inviting not only external security into the events, but also campus administrators. Greek organizations, on the other hand, are not typically inviting University officials into the parties that they host. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the Greek organizations have never issued a statement acknowledging the fact that their spaces facilitate sexual violence–an indisputable fact if you speak with students on campus so this evidence that you present against the QA is in fact a sign of active change rather than a resistance to it. There has certainly not been a demonstrated willingness to tackle the problem of sexual assault head on by fraternities–in fact, Phi Psi defended itself after students were drugged at one of their parties! You should endeavor to learn more about organizations before using them to create false parallels to support a weak argument. Your last point is moot as well. I hope I don’t need to go into the details of why you shouldn’t dismiss a measure because it doesn’t solve every aspect of a problem.

      • Greek leadership changes each year (in fact each semester in some houses) and 25% of its membership is replaced each year. The QA has TBGALA to keep alumni connected so don’t try to paint the organizational structure of these two groups as so wildly different. They are both student groups that host parties. I guarantee the QA has a constitution and bylaws – that makes it just as institutional as a greek house.

        All greek houses undergo TIPS training as well as sexual assault prevention education (in fact the Greeks were the first students to partake in the new program when it was brought to campus several years ago). At registered events, university officials and 3rd party security are present.

        I agree that Phi Psi’s public statements in the wake of this have been atrocious and if the university is punishing them for being uncooperative I would agree but that’s not what the university is saying. The university is saying they are responsible for someone coming into their party and raping another party goer somewhere else on campus. There’s been nothing demonstrated by the university to show that Phi Psi – the organization – is actually culpable. The Occam’s razor approach to what happened is that one person asked for a drink, slipped something in it and gave it to the girl he was targeting. That can easily happen at any university event while being in full compliance of university alcohol policy.

        If they want to punish Phi Psi for throwing an unregistered party the standard punishment is 1 to 2 semesters of social probation (go look at the greek council minutes to see the past results of their judicial board). If you want to argue that’s too lenient – that’s a separate argument.

        The fact is Brown got pie in its face over McCormick and Sclove and now in the wake of a title IX lawsuit against them they are coming out guns blazing at the easiest, most validating target they can find – the Greeks.

        • And my point with the last statement is that the policy of not allowing student groups to hold dorm parties while still allowing dorm parties is an example of backwards policy. Student groups are held to higher safety standards for their events than the rest of the student body – forcing parties in residence halls to be unaffiliated with groups essentially just creates more unregistered events (i.e. the type of event phi psi and sigma got punished for).

          It’s like back when the university forbid student groups from doing $5 cover all you can drink parties and instead required a $3 cover $1/drink. The point was to cut down on student alcohol consumption, but all that policy did was encourage more pre-gaming. Pre-gamins is a riskier behavior than what happens at a party where you wait in line and can only be given 2 drinks at a time (and you can’t serve shots). So sure, the policy “lowered” the amount of drinking “at parties” but it didn’t lower the amount of drinking on campus. This party policy might reduce the number of rapes at fraternity parties but it won’t reduce the number of rapes on campus (well maybe it will because more rapes will happen off campus and then Brown will really distance itself from trying to take meaningful action).

  3. Marc Peters…

    • Nothing says confident man like needing to pick on others.

      • I’m not “picking on him”. Lol! Based on his statements, I’m just pointing out that he’s one of those gender studies, sensitive male feminist wackos pretending he’s on campus to educate or advocate for men. Calling him a “beta male” gets that point across to other men. Sorry you don’t know the code.

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