Michaela Woodward – Staff Writer
Gustavus Junior Andrew Mendez and Sophomore Elizabeth Klebs have started an initiative to create a campus community geared toward sexual assault prevention and education.
Flyers distributed during the involvement fair last Tuesday call it “A new grassroots campus community initiative to prevent sexual assault”. The flyer goes on to describe the intent of the group: “We want to cultivate a culture of safety, healing, and belonging on campus from within the student body by promoting collaborative discussions and innovative solutions surrounding sexual assault.”
The concept for this community-based organization began with a conversation in the Pittman basement about the work Mendez was doing in the Title IX office. “Last year I was hired as a Statistician Consultant, which was kind of an internship with the Title IX department, to look over their climate data from 2015 and 2019… my main focus was looking at the 2019 data, and basically analyzing and figuring out the issues on campus and how we can have targeted prevention,” Mendez said.
“One night I was in the basement of Pittman working on the stats. I came out, I saw Elizabeth and I kind of talked to her about the stats. And it all just kind of took off from there,” Mendez said.
However, the idea of a campus-led community was not initially on the table, or potentially feasible.
“I was really interested in the work that he was doing but I did not intend to be involved with it at the beginning,” Klebs said.
“I didn’t really know where to go. I didn’t really have anything set in stone. [It was] just kind of a dream,” Mendez said.
Over the summer, the idea took shape as a response to the lack of resources currently available that meet the needs of students. “It’s a topic that has been talked about quite a bit, but there hasn’t been a sustainable solution that we’ve personally found has been presented yet,” Klebs said.
“A huge focus of our goal is having an extra bridge to admin, because currently there really isn’t much of a bridge on this topic. The only bridge is Title IX, and with Title IX there’s kind of a reputation around it that has been built just because of the systemic issues that it’s had throughout the years, so we believe that this is a new bridge that allows us to have a direct communication between the student body and admin about any of these issues,” Mendez said.
“We also hope to kind of almost be like the DLC of the sexual assault initiatives on campus in the different groups that are already doing stuff around this topic. We hope to collaborate with them and just really unite the student body together in creating a supportive group effort towards this,” Klebs said.
Additionally, the community hopes to provide workshops such as weekly self-defense classes and other preventative and educational events.
Students with ideas, suggestions, or who are interested in joining can email Klebs (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mendez (email@example.com). In particular, the community is looking for someone with strengths in graphic design, as well as advocates.
“More than anything we need advocates. One of the other main goals is that we’ll have a student-led advocacy group, which will be very similar to SART, but it will be run by students. That is our main focus right now,” Mendez said.
While this new community is currently in the process of being recognized as an official student organization, they are welcoming anyone to take part in the initial steps of spreading the word and offering suggestions to meet needs on campus.
“This is something that we hope to be just like an all-around community effort. Anyone who has ideas or just wants to join in any capacity would be awesome,” Klebs said.
“Trying to get as many people in and trying to get this as big of a group effort as possible, because it is a huge issue on campus, it is something that we all have to take part in,” Mendez said.