By Henri Gendreau
There were not enough chairs for the roughly 60 people who filed into the Horn Gallery on Wednesday evening for a conversation on sexual misconduct.
The forum included a panel of seven students, including representatives from the Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMA), Beer and Sex, Peer Counselors and Discrimination Advisors.
One of the panelists, Paul Dougherty 13, an SMA Co-Manager , said the various groups had spent about two weeks organizing the event. [SMAs] have always been committed to an on-campus dialogue about sexual violence, he said.
Nothing really inspired [the forum]. Were just doing what were supposed to be doing.
I think in particular, this semester [there] has been a rise in some of those discussions [on sexual misconduct], said Nikki Keller, a counselor in Kenyons Health and Counseling Center. And so we were hoping to have an open forum for students to come in a safe place and share concerns, share ideas and potentially leave with some ideas about how to support someone whos been involved in any form of sexual misconduct on any end of it, any end of the spectrum.
In addition to student representatives, the panel included Patrick Gilligan, director of counseling services, who started the meeting by praising the efforts of Dean of Students Hank Toutain, who was in attendance.
We have the best Dean of Students in the Universe [but] he cant fix this. It cant get fixed this way, Gilligan said, motioning his hands from the top down and implying the solution cant come from the administration alone. It gets fixed this way, he said, opening his arms to the audience and raising them from the bottom up.
The conversation shifted from remarks by the panelists to a back-and-forth between the panel and audience. The open discussion was guided by questions submitted anonymously by audience members at the beginning of the forum.
How do we talk about rape culture constructively? was the first question brought up at the gathering. After an initial discussion, one of the panelists asked the audience if everyone was familiar with the term rape culture, clarifying that such a culture was one that allows sexual assault to occur as a normal part of society.
The conversation shifted from last years gang rape in New Delhi that sparked protests across India and garnered international media attention, to how the gender aspect of the issue unfairly targets males.
The flippant answer, said one of the panelists, is get over it.
Keller said the kind of forum held last night is a vital way to discuss such a widespread issue as sexual misconduct. Its unfortunately an ongoing issue thats not just unique to Kenyon, but across all college campuses, she said. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct exists everywhere, and so theres always been a need [for such discussions].
What affects Kenyon is also affecting the rest of the country and vice versa, Dougherty added. We dont exist in a vacuum and were just trying to do our part here, with this community, as part of an overall dialogue.
Sexual Misconduct Advisors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through an anonymous hotline at 740-358-1544.
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