K-State student leaders are hopeful that a rally for sexual violence awareness will spur change on an administrative level.
More than 100 students walked across campus Tuesday as part of a rally to bring awareness of sexual violence at K-State and other Kansas universities. The rally started on the Anderson Hall lawn and ended on the front lawn of KSU President Richard Myers’ campus home with what he said was a “robust, if sometimes heated, dialogue.”
In a written statement released Thursday, Myers said he wanted students to participate in the Sexual Assault Climate Survey coming out later this month to “help us understand the full scope of these issues.”
“Many expressed frustrations with the status quo and a desire for a greater sense of urgency for the university to address these issues,” Myers said. “Some who spoke gave personal examples of sexual violence or sexual harassment they have endured. You were courageous to come forward with these deeply personal stories.”
Myers also said in his response that a working group for the ongoing 11 Action Steps for a More Inclusive K-State is “evaluating our jurisdiction and relationship with independent student organizations.” Independent student organizations would appear to include fraternities and sororities.
“This is a complex issue with many legal and accountability issues that requires a thoughtful approach,” he said.
Myers said the group will present its recommendation to university leadership in December.
The campus Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education (CARE) and Wildcats Against Sexual Violence (WASV) organized the rally. K-State graduate Paige Eichkorn, who returned to Manhattan to lead the event, told the campus newspaper she was raped her freshman year in Haymaker Hall, and that by leading the rally to Myers’ front yard, students “were able to tell him he failed us.”
In his statement Thursday, Myers said he has asked the students from Monday’s rally for “some concrete actions they would like to see us take.” University officials said a more detailed list of action items to tackle sexual violence on campus will be published in a university newsletter.
“I want it to be very clear that I personally stand with the survivors and abhor the actions of perpetrators of sexual violence,” Myers said. “You have my commitment to address the issues of sexual assault and sexual violence on our campuses. I view this as an urgent need.”
Tuesday’s rally comes amid widespread anger among students at other regional universities, including the University of Kansas, over incidents of sexual violence and a perceived lack of administrative action. KSU Student Governing Association Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Director Sara Haggard told The Mercury she thought Myers’ response was “interesting” and that she is glad that he cited some of the proposed action steps in his written statement.
Haggard, who is a junior majoring in medical biochemistry and Spanish, said one of her big goals is to make the CARE office’s sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist position a permanent one.
“It’s a very, very important position that does a lot of great work,” Haggard said, “and right now it’s funded through student government funds.”
Haggard asked Dean of Students Thomas Lane to make that position permanent, and she said Lane is taking that commitment “very seriously.”
“I really appreciated that because it’s something I’ve been pushing for,” Haggard said. “I’m very confident that we will see at least some change on campus resulting from the march.”
Haggard said by institutionalizing a position intended to increase student awareness and education on sexual violence, campus officials are “creating an environment that makes it clear we prioritize” that education. She said the upcoming Sexual Assault Climate Survey will offer more information on sexual violence occurrences at K-State.
“I’m actually really excited to have some quantifiable data on how big an issue this is on campus,” Haggard said. “I think some previous surveys have kind of glossed over the issue.”