Plans for Campus Coalition to End Sexual Assault

Junior Catherine Fisher, an intern to Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell, is attempting to start a Coalition to End Sexual Assault that would invite diverse groups from around Whitman’s campus to converse and help support each other’s efforts to end sexual assault.

Planning for the coalition is still in the preliminary phase, so no one knows exactly what the group might look like in its final form. Generally speaking, the representatives from various campus clubs and organizations such as All Students for Consent (ASC), the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC), FACE (Feminists Advocating for Change and Empowerment), Residence Life, varsity athletics and the Greek System would meet twice a month to coordinate the various ideas they have for ending sexual assault at Whitman. There would be one representative from each of these groups, except for the Greek System, which would have one representative for fraternities and another for sororities. When representatives from these various clubs and organizations communicate regularly, the hope is that their programming won’t conflict with like it occasionally has in the past. Instead, all the groups can work together to publicize each other’s educational efforts and events.

According to Maxwell, the need for this new coalition arose when she realized that campus clubs and organizations often had programming addressing how to end sexual assault at similar times, which put them in competition for the same student audiences.  

“The trigger for this particular job description was my students talking about the fact that athletics had done an, ‘It’s On Us’ campaign…It stuck me that there are a lot of student groups out there doing outreach, education, programing on the topic of sexual assault prevention, but that we don’t coordinate that very well,” Maxwell said. “Sometimes, without intending—or even knowing—we step on each other’s toes.”

To encourage more of these student organizations to work in harmony, Fisher felt that communication about the different initiatives they were taking on would be key.

“I feel like the communication is not always great, which is nobody’s fault, but that’s what I am trying to remedy with this group,” Fisher said.

While Fisher has some ideas for how she wants to coalition to look, she hopes that representatives from various campus organizations will inform the shape that this coalition takes as well.

“I really want to keep it open for other people to have a say in where the group goes. I don’t want it to be my little pet group. I will be planning ground rules and leading meetings, but I want it be something that other people have input into,” Fisher said.

Sophomore ASWC Senator Caroline Bauwens’ voiced excitement at the possibility of a more cohesive effort to end sexual assault all across campus.

“I hope that it will help students feel a lot safer…and decrease the number of sexual assaults that happen,” Bauwens said .

Both Fisher and Maxwell agreed that The Coalition to End Sexual Violence should encourage all clubs and organizations who may have new, insightful perspectives to send a representative to the meetings.

“The idea with including things like Athletics or Residence Life is to get outside of the echo chamber of ASC and FACE and organizations that have in their mission to deal with these issues and instead get some new people into the conversation,” Fisher said.

Maxwell believed that the best way to end sexual assault would be for anyone who was interested to join the conversation.

“Everyone on campus is welcome to come to the table and participate on this topic. This is a campus topic, and anyone who wants to work towards ending sexual violence is welcome to participate…The more people feel welcome to come to the table, the more people that are invested in that, the more people that are actively working on that, the quicker we are going to get there,” Maxwell said.