It was this time last year that the Me Too movement quickly gained international attention via social media. The hashtag, #MeToo, covered the internet, raising awareness on the issue of sexual violence and harassment. The movement has since picked up more momentum as the Kavanaugh hearing unfolded earlier this fall. In light of these recent events, Siena’s Women’s Center held a brief open forum on Mon. Oct. 29, 2018, in the SSU. The forum focused on the Me Too movement itself, the swearing-in of Brett Kavanaugh and the current state of women’s empowerment.
Open to anyone on campus, the forum was attended by both Siena students and faculty who shared their feelings and concerns. Because this event touched on sensitive subjects, mediators set ground rules to ensure that everyone in attendance and their opinions were respected. A few questions were provided to spark the conversations, including “Do you think #MeToo is necessary?” and “Do you think it’s justified/fair when people say ‘it’s a dangerous world for men?'” The notion that Brett Kavanaugh being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice may be the Me Too movement taking steps backward proved to be a topic of interest. Some attendees felt that it was, in fact, taking the movement backward. On the other hand, comments were also made that the situation would only encourage the movement to reform, regroup and come back stronger.
As for the Siena community itself, the forum raised questions on how the topics of sexual assault and harassment are handled on campus. Comments were made regarding the want for more implementation of these current issues in classroom discussions. Some felt that professors should be more active in talking about such matters with their students as they are occurring. Others felt that professors should make it known to their classes if they are an available source for out-of-classroom discussions. The idea of having more mandatory approaches other than the first-year orientation seminar on sexual assault was also addressed. It was mentioned that this seminar during orientation may not have been enough to get the seriousness of these pressing issues across to incoming students.
The mediators concluded the discussion by providing the names of resources available to members of the Siena community that may be struggling with anything related to sexual assault and harassment. Resources that keep information strictly confidential include Health Services, the Counseling Center and Chaplain’s office. Other resources on campus include the Women’s Center, Public Safety, the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center and any available community assistants or resident directors. Siena commonly holds forums regarding popular issues such as this one. They are always open to the Siena community, so if you would like to voice your opinions in a safe space, make sure to attend the next available open forum.