At Westminster’s second “Not Alone” symposium, speaker after speaker stressed the importance of empowering students to combat and report instances of sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses.
Through Sept. 18–19, students, faculty and staff from across the state discussed matters that many said have been dismissed for years. Topics at the two-day event included sexual assault, dating, stalking, domestic violence, consent and violence on college campuses.
“This symposium is about making campus life safe for our students, to help them make wise decisions as they discover the kinds of persons they want to become,” said Steve Morgan, Westminster’s president, who spoke at the start of the symposium.
“College is a time of great discovery in our lives, experimentation and challenging the assumptions that we grew up with,” Morgan said. “But it should not include sexual assault and discrimination. Any of us that have had children that are college-age, as I have, expect our institutions to be places of of learning, not places of harassment and intimidation.”
In its second year, the symposium reflected a national push for colleges and universities to address sexual assault on campuses. Westminster is also under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights from the Department of Education for the school’s response to a 2013 student sexual assault.
Title IX of the Education Amendments says, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Several students at the symposium said the push to discuss these issues and to educate the campus about Title IX could have a big impact on Westminster.
“Yes, but it’s a stepping stone — just a small stepping stone, if that makes sense,” said Alex Miller, sophomore arts administration major who attended the symposium. “[We need to] get students more involved. We definitely have strong support from faculty.”
Miller, like many of the speakers at the symposium, said it is important for students to feel supported and encouraged by faculty and staff.
Melissa Frost, the director of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at Utah Valley University, also stressed in her presentation the importance of students feeling safe on campus. She said a troubling truth is how many college students go through something traumatic in college that no one ever learns about because they don’t feel safe.
“One in four women and one in 60 men during their college career experience some type of unwanted sexual contact,” said Frost, who is also a Title IX coordinator at UVU. “People can come forward and get help and support.”