By Rachel Sweeney
On Tuesday evening, representatives from various community organizations gathered in the Community Foundation Theater in the Gund Gallery to facilitate a panel discussion on the education and prevention of sexual violence in the Kenyon community. The event was a result of a collaboration between Katie Hanna, director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Sexual Misconduct Adviser (SMA) Christina Franzino ’16. The result was a casual, open discussion on the issues of education and prevention of sexual violence as they pertain specifically to Kenyon’s campus. Roughly 30 students attended.
A panel of six individuals led the conversation, which included a substantial amount of contribution from the students, faculty and community members in attendance. Among these panelists were Charlie Collison ’15, a student SMA leader, Nikki Keller, College counselor and SMA faculty leader, and Matt Hellman, who serves as director of Knox County’s New Directions Shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
The notion of utilizing education in order to create a change in cultural climate was a common thread throughout the evening’s discussion. As Interim Title IX Coordinator Linda Smolak, who also sat as a panelist, put it, “To me, the way you generate cultural change is to do education. We need to get the word out that you are not alone in thinking that its wrong to sexually harass somebody.”
The students in attendance were able to provide their own perspectives about the most effective ways to educate the Kenyon student body in regards to the prevention of sexual misconduct. Attendees stressed the role of professors and faculty toward cultivating change and considered the idea of creating an online educational program on rights and responsibilities regarding sexual misconduct for first years prior to their arrival on campus.
“I thought that it was a productive discussion about a lot of issues that are both specific to Kenyon and generally are national issues, too,” Emma Klein ’17 said. “I think everyone brought a good perspective to potential solutions to some of the problems. I thought it was unfortunate the attendance was a little low and [was] probably not a good representation of our entire school as a population.”
The necessity of creating safe environments for all perspectives was the most discussed topic of the evening. This need was made especially clear by the demographics of the event’s attendees: only three males were present, only one of whom was a Kenyon student. Smolak stressed the significance of student participation in creating change: “I’d like to get [the message] out to the students that we want to make [Kenyon] safe and comfortable — but we need your help to do it.”