By Erin Moyer || Senior Editor
I went to the Forum on Sexual Misconduct this past Tuesday night. In fact, I actually wrote a News article about it. But there was a quite a bit I wanted to say about the Forum that really could not, and entirely should not, be included in said News article. So I thought I might write a few (hundred) words here.
As I wrote in my News piece, only about 20 students attended Tuesday night’s forum. And out of those 20 students, one was a man, and several were gender-queer. The rest were women. Several of the women there, including myself, were in sororities. That lone star of a man in attendance was not in a fraternity. And, as President Porterfield himself pointed out in his opening remarks, our small group of student attendees included no first-years. Perhaps a sophomore or two who I don’t know snuck in there, but the “crowd”— a generous word choice on my part— very much seemed to be made up of junior and senior women (and one man, and several gender-queer people), who have already made their commitment to marginalized causes like this one fairly clear.
The 20 people who were at Tuesday’s talk are the 20 people who are always at these sorts of talks. These are the 20 people who always make a point of supporting LGTBQ+, or feminist, or generally civic-minded events. And at a certain point, I feel like these discussions, these forums, are really only preaching to the choir. I learned a lot from the forum, but I also don’t think that I am necessarily part of a population who most needs to know this information. Conversations of such gravity, like this forum, should probably be reaching more than the same earnest two dozen souls every time.
I left the event feeling remarkably drained. It was not just because of the (obviously) emotional, serious nature of the talk, and not just because I had held up a tape recorder for two hours. I was disappointed by the turnout, or lack-there-of. 20 people is not, say, a totally embarrassing head-count at a house party. It’s about 18 more than the number of friends I have. But for a forum about our school’s— federally-scrutinized, mind you— sexual misconduct policies, 20 people is pretty dismal.
I didn’t expect Stahr Auditorium to be standing-room-only on Tuesday, don’t get me wrong, but I thought we would do better than 20. Tuesday night’s forum was just another poor showing on a campus so infamously plagued by a vague, lethargic air of indifference. Our Campus Protest Tree is literally dying, you guys. If that’s not a perfect metaphor for our sluggish civic conscience, then I don’t know what is. Issues like our sexual misconduct policy, like Black Lives Matter, like the topic of a Women’s Center discussion, should not matter to just 20 people here. They should matter to all of us.
And I want to be clear: I get it. I really do. I know what it’s like to be a stressed-out student here, and in fact, often am one myself. I know that we are a population of extraordinarily busy, committed people. I know our campus often feels over-programmed, and we can’t all come to every important event that happens here. Nor would I pretend that I make it to a lot of them, either. I know we don’t all have the time to always come to every important thing happening here.
And what’s more, I heard from a lot of my friends that they didn’t even know this forum was happening; perhaps it was poorly— or hastily?— advertised. I’m not sure whose job it was to do that sort of thing, but I’m looking at you here. It’s hard to attend something you don’t know exists. I don’t think I would have known about it myself were it not for a Facebook Event invite.
All of that said, I come not to bury us, but to encourage us. We have to start trying to pull ourselves out of this funk and into discussion. We can do better than this. We need to make sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and F&M’s policies on the like, a campus-wide conversation. This is all of our business, and all of our concern.
So this semester, try to make some room in your schedule. Leave your comfort zone to learn something new. Try to find some way to join an important conversation. Because if these discussions are going to go anywhere, we need to hear from more people than a core crew of 20-ish students. I gripe in this newspaper far too often, and I want to read what someone else has to say. Put events on your calendar, and make a point of going to them. Write an OpEd article, and use your voice. I can’t listen to my own self-righteous one for much longer.
Senior Erin Moyer is a Senior Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.