Standing Up and Speaking Out: AU Students Are Ready for a Change

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photo by megan mann / for the observer

BY MEGAN MANN
FOR THE OPELIKA OBSERVER

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Rape

Auburn University students are outraged.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, men and women gathered on Toomers Corner to protest. Many carried signs that read “No means No” and “Release the name of the Frat.”

The protest was in response to an Auburn University Campus Safety statement that was sent out to students via email last week, which said a female student told police that she was raped on Friday, Sept. 10, at a fraternity house. Another incident also occurred on the same day, according to another campus safety department statement which said a female student reported being forcibly touched by a stranger who jogged by her while she was on her way to her dorm. These reports came shortly after another statement by campus safety, issued on Sept. 8, which said a female student reported being raped and physically assaulted in an on-campus residential facility a week before.

These three reports spanned from Sept. 8-14. The reoccurring emails propelled students into action, as many demanded the university release the name of the fraternity that was involved in the incident.

Following Tuesday’s demonstration, another protest occurred on Thursday, Sept. 16. More people attended this time as students made red ribbons, symbolic rings, fliers and graphics as they prepared to support their fellow women. Another protest is already scheduled for Sept. 30 and is expected to have increased media coverage and the biggest attendance rate of any of the protests to date.

One student, Regan Moss, started a petition titled “Name the Frat,” which now has over 3,000 signatures.

“I regret naming the petition “Name the Frat” because while I recognized that it was only a small part of what should happen, I’m not sure others have thought about what other actions should take place,” she said. “The point of naming the frat is to hold people accountable and provide opportunities to improve and to ask for transparency from the university; yet that’s only one small part of a multi-faceted and nuanced issue.”

Moss, a senior at Auburn University studying microbiology and neuroscience, has been advocating for human rights long before these events occurred.

“I founded and run ‘PERIOD. @ Auburn, AL’ and ‘Auburn Students Against Human Trafficking,’” she said. “I work in WIGE. I have received several grants to support my work related to sexual violence and exploitation.”

Moss has not been afraid to address the university and offer suggestions on what she thinks will create changes, she said.

“It’s important to have more trauma therapists, hold more critical conversations about what social and cultural drivers feed rape culture, provide Green Dot and trauma-informed training to faculty and provide restorative programming for perpetrators and groups that enable perpetrators,” she said.

Moss is one of many students across the university who have now taken it upon themselves to make a change on Auburn’s campus.

There has been a GroupMe made titled “Auburn SA Awareness” that has almost 600 members. In this group, they discuss the next steps they will be taking to ensure acts like the recent ones on campus do not go overlooked and that a safer environment for future Auburn students — and women everywhere — is established.

Furthermore, there has been a board of students formed for this new group and it released its mission statement to the university. It reads, “We are advocates to support Sexual Assault Awareness and make changes within our community. We are striving to create a safe and welcoming campus for ALL students.”

The Auburn SA Awareness group will also make a list of demands for the university; one of those is that the university is more transparent with students.

Women from other universities in Alabama have also begun reaching out to Auburn students in support of their actions. Some say the demonstrations are inspiring them to fight for a change on their own campus.

“Everything happening at Auburn makes me sick,” said Jackie Shelby, a senior at UAB. “We’ve had a lot of problems here recently with our frats and sexual assault and no one is doing anything about it.”

A student who wished to remain anonymous from The University of Alabama said, “It’s really cool to see Auburn students speaking out against the Greek system, knowing how much power they hold. At Alabama, people are too afraid to do that because being in a fraternity or sorority here basically defines your college experience. Things often remain covered up or swept under the rug.”

While the issue of sexual assault has made itself prevalent at the local level recently, the actions by Auburn University students reflect the grander issue of sexual assault that is taking place at a national scale. For example, gymnasts such as Aly Raisman and Simone Biles have spent the past few days testifying in court against trainer Larry Nassar, who is accused of multiple accounts of sexual assault.

These are just a few of many cases that take place in the U.S. every year. The issue of sexual assault is not a problem that will fade without continued efforts to raise awareness and holding those in authority accountable.

Here in the Auburn community, methods have been implemented to help with the process of making everyone feel safer.

One resource is the Green Dot program, which offers a free bystander intervention program that students can request for their organization on campus. More information can be found online at WE.auburn – Health Promotion & Wellness Services.

The Health Promotion and Wellness services offer other sources as well, including counseling and support groups for survivors. It can be contacted through email at hpws@auburn.edu or by phone at 334-844-1528.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is confidential and available 24/7. It can be reached at 800-656-4673.

Turn to A6 for more photos from the protest.

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