The Department of English wishes to take up the challenge issued by the September Siblings and other students to examine the institutional climate in which sexual violence has been able to cause widespread and too-often unacknowledged suffering. Specifically, we wish to answer the call made by Alesha Doan, Chair of WGSS and co-chair of the Sexual Assault Task Force to follow these students’ courageous example and continue to speak out. It is our responsibility as a community to keep breaking the silence, to draw attention to the pervasive patterns of sexual violence which our culture tolerates, to call for and actively support changes in policy and implementation that prevent and punish such violence, and to make ourselves and others accountable for seeing that such changes become permanent.
The task force has been charged by our chancellor with examining KU policy, practices and sanctions, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and the adequacy of survivor services and prevention programs. Even as members began working on these immediate goals, their first meeting also powerfully highlighted our responsibility and our opportunity as a research institution to become a national leader in prevention and survival. Two of our Bold Aspirations strategic initiatives, “Promoting Wellbeing” and “Building Communities,” invite us to link research opportunities with prevention programs, to generate and analyze data and to open up critical conversations that together can drive decisions about prevention, safety and survivor needs.
We are proud of our students for speaking out and we take their demands seriously. We are grateful to the task force members who have taken on this crucial work. We need to help put their recommendations into action through our teaching, our research, and our service as citizens of KU and the larger community beyond the campus. In these ways, we can help uproot norms that enable sexual pressure and assault on campus even as we make meaningful contributions to a nationwide conversation whose urgency must not be allowed to fade.
Professor and Chair
Department of English